|Smell of success: RGX challenges leaders in the body-spray and cologne categories|
But on closer inspection, the effort for Henkel's RGX -- touted as a lighter-smelling lineup than Axe or Tag -- cleverly casts the brand as an alternative for more mature young men who want to get closer to women like Ms. Specter, as opposed to boyish body-spray users and their scent-soaked ways.
Humor aside, she's poking fun at a real issue. A handful of middle and high schools in the U.S. and Canada have banned or considered banning Axe and Tag in the past year after teachers and some students complained about the overwhelming fumes of budding Romeos doused in the body sprays. Frequently, boys use them in copious quantities in lieu of showers after gym class.
The launch last year of smaller, portable versions of the sprays, including Body Shots from Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tag and Clix from Unilever's Axe, have only made it easier for boys to spritz on the go.
Ironically, it was P&G-owned Gillette that in 2004 began to define the category downward in age with its Tag body spray, buying broader media, including sports and prime time that reached more young boys. Now RGX, which Gillette was required to divest along with Right Guard when it was acquired by P&G in 2005, is going after the older guys in Axe's 18-to-24 demo, though Henkel says it's also looking to expand the segment to more sophisticated guys who've shunned body spray up to now.
"We've used the voice of a woman to talk to men about what separates a man from a boy," said Steven Koven, brand manager for RGX, of the ads from Omnicom Group's Energy BBDO.
Smells good so far...
Early results indicate RGX's approach may be working. Since its February introduction, the Right Guard spinoff has garnered about 1.5 share points in the body-spray category in a quarter when it had only partial distribution for about half the period.
Apparently, at least some of that share came at the expense of Axe, and RGX beat Axe in first-month overall sales at some accounts such as Walgreens, said Ruediger Vetter, VP-marketing for deodorants for Henkel's Dial unit.
Results are less clear for P&G's Old Spice, which has taken a slightly different voice-of-experience approach in a campaign from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., that broke in January. The spot makes heavily veiled references to body-spray-doused boys and sex -- the latter referred to as "it." Actor Bruce Campbell says in one of the Old Spice TV ads, "The point is, if you've never had any of it ever, people just seem to know."
But Old Spice still isn't getting a lot of love from body-spray users. The brand lost share in the segment in the first quarter, according to Information Resources Inc., though it gained share there for the full 52-week period ended March 25. Apparently it too was a victim of the RGX ads.
Old Spice did gain share in the larger deodorant category in the first quarter but at a slightly slower rate than for the full 52-week period, most of which didn't include the new Wieden effort.
Good news for the market
Meanwhile, RGX does appear to have somewhat rekindled what had been a flattening body-spray segment that has been the primary engine for growth in deodorants since Unilever launched Axe in 2002. Body-spray and cologne sales were up 3.6% in the first quarter vs. down 1.3% in the past year. And counting gift sets, where Axe led growth, first-quarter sales were up 7.6%. None of the data include Wal-Mart Stores, clubs stores or dollar stores, faster-growing outlets where Axe, Tag and RGX have bigger shares and more growth.
Axe also continues to increase share in antiperspirants, gaining 0.6 points in the first quarter, its momentum little changed from the 0.8-point gain for the full year, despite the competitive advertising.
Unilever appears unfazed by the latest efforts to combat Axe. "Because Axe created such a hot grooming category, we fully expect imitators will come and go, and are flattered by that," said Sam Chadha, marketing director of antiperspirant/deodorant for Unilever.