An Open Letter To AXE’s Marketing Team

A few weeks ago, a promoted tweet featuring a GIF of a teenaged boy using an AXE product found its way onto my Twitter feed. I responded by writing this:

I know, I know. Not that funny or productive. But I was miffed, and I wrote it in a moment of haste. To my surprise, someone on the AXE marketing team quickly responded with this tweet:

WEIRD. Why were they being so nice to me? Well, they weren’t really being nice, they were just trying to flatter me into seeing their brand in a new light. I didn’t like it, but I was too creeped out and busy crafting my original social comedy to respond. A few weeks later, someone at the AXE marketing team followed up with this tweet:

You’re probably wondering who Doug is. He’s an adorable pug that my girlfriend and I watch every few weeks. I like tweeting pictures of him because he is sweet and funny and he looks ridiculous. AXE looked through my tweets, found out about Doug, and decided to do some namedropping when they offered to send me their free promotional products. Their tweet was unsettling, to say the least, and I knew it was time to give my incredible and unique brand of social comedy a rest a moment to craft a thorough response to the AXE marketing team. Here’s my response:

Dear AXE Marketing Team,

With a small measure of sadness but no regret, I am writing to decline the free deodorant and hair products you offered to send Doug and I. I feel a tinge of sadness, because I usually jump at the prospect of receiving free things (especially free things that I need), but no regret, because my low opinion of your company remains intact despite the recent dramatic shift in the way you market your products. Doug is a dog, but if he were a man, I’m sure he’d be in my camp on this issue.

Until recently, AXE’s marketing tactics have been shameful on every level. Here’s what happens in every AXE commercial I’ve seen over the past decade: An awkward, sometimes heavy-set teenaged boy uses an AXE product and is then magically surrounded by 1–400 beautiful women. The beautiful woman or women take a great interest in the teenaged boy, and might even have sex with him later. Who knows?! One could argue that these ads were harmless, but I disagree. They were pointed at not just teenagers, an already vulnerable group, but toward socially-challenged teenaged boys. You helped cultivate the idea in young men that sex is a commodity that can be purchased with products. I think every unabashedly sexist, ridiculous ad you’ve created has made our world a less reasonable and loving place.

You employed the, “AXE gives awkward dudes just what they’re missing when it comes to the How To Sleep With Hot Girls Department,” marketing strategy for a long time, and I’m sure it’s helped Unilever (your parent company) make a butt-load of money. But that was then, and this is 2016, and you’ve made some drastic marketing strategy changes in an attempt to remain relevant enough to keep selling your heavily-fragranced body sprays and shampoos to 12 to 24-year-old males. The text on the landing page of your website now reads, “Find Your Magic: It’s the look, the moves and the feeling that show your uniqueness. It’s your style, your way. Now work on it.” Talk about an about-face. Also, what does that even mean? Like in your brief interactions with me on Twitter, you’ve taken to social media platforms to spread this newfound and somewhat incoherent message of male positivity, sensitivity and liberation through fashion and grooming products.

This new strategy, though significantly more nuanced and less harmful than your old one, is still gross to me. I don’t believe for a second that the change in your tune was inspired by anything other than focus groups, costly marketing consultants and money. And how you’re implementing this new strategy is also off-putting and invasive to me. You scoured my tweets to learn personal information about me and used it to try to market your products to me. Doug and I are weirded out by this.

It should also be mentioned that I’m downright irked that you have to be nice to me no matter what sort of ridiculous things I tweet at you. You will probably try to write back and apologize to me after you read this but I’d rather you didn’t. I can see your boss now, leaning over your shoulder and advising you on how to effectively promote AXE’s vapid brand of relentless positivity to someone like me. Ughhhh. Just stop. Please? I’m sure you aren’t awful people even though AXE is and will always be a stain on American culture. We’ve all made mistakes. I even tried to work at Urban Outfitters once.

Patrick McGuire and Doug

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