Axe's top marketer on helping men break out of the 'Man Box'

The "Man Box," or the set of attributes that rigidly defines masculinity, is harmful and an issue Axe and Lynx have decided to address, said Rik Strubel, the brand's global VP.

Speaking to Campaign at Web Summit in Lisbon last week, Strubel discussed the results of a study Axe conducted with Promundo that examined the attitudes, behaviors, and understandings of manhood among young men.  

"While we aware it existed, we were not aware of the massive impact it had on men. Nineteen percent of men who lived by those rules had thoughts of suicide," Strubel said. "Overall, every single guy knows those rules exist and some feel more or less constrained by them, even if they don't realize it, they are and it makes them feel bad."

What's worse is that these men often transmit their misery on to others.

"Men who are in the box are more likely to make sexist comments about women, to bully and be bullied," he added. "It's making them unhappy and quite ill."

So Axe/Lynx, which is on a quest of its own to transform itself from the sexist image "the Axe effect" created towards a brand that is redefining modern masculinty, decided this year that itneeded to help men break out of the Man Box. 

"We worked with Google to find a truthful mirror of where guys are most insecure. We examined 173,000 seraches related to the insecurities of guys and identified which had the most worrying impact," Strubel said. 

The result was a search-driven campaign titled "Is it okay for..." by 72andSunny. The campaign featured 30 Axe/Lynx partners, including John Legend and NGOs Ditch the Label and Calm answering the most searched questions. 

"While we continue to do fun advertising, we want to make sure we also do something for society," Strubel said.  

Next year, Axe/Lynx will tackle the subject of bullying. Partnering with anti-bullying NGO Ditch the Label the brand hopes to help it expand its work to U.S. and Mexico. 

How has this benefited the brand?

While not everyone is aware of how much research Axe/Lynx has poured into its campaigns, there has been a lot of positive feedback for "Find your magic."

"By treating guys as the cool guys that they are, we gained a wider variety of cool guys. The campaign has contributed to raising brand measures such as 'a brand that understands guys like me,' 'a cool and trendy brand,'" Strubel explained.

And, of course, sales in core categories have increased. 

"One of our key KPIs was to gain momentum back for the brand. We did a first-time campaign with Snapchat as part of 'Is it okay...' in collaboration with Vice. We share what we were working on and the guys at Vice got really inspired by it," Strubel said. 

The Snapchat-Vice collaboration saw 12 million impressions in six days and a 21% rise in the campaign's engagement rates.

Strubel added that it also drew a lot more young men to the campaign's website, with high dwell times and low bounce rates.

"The content was so integrated that they were continuing the journey without interruption," he explained.

As Axe/Lynx turns 35 next year, it plans to continue to be a brand that is about attraction and helping men to be attractive and confident.

"We're just going down a new route to achieve this that really resonates with today's audience," Strubel said. 

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