Do Lynx/Axe need to brand it like Bond?

For years I've admired the Axe/Lynx brand, and blogged about in many times. They have stuck to a simple but inspiring brand idea, unofficially summarised as "Get sprayed, get laid" (official version "Grooms men to seduce"). And the brand have been masters at bringing out new news each year.

So, I was sorry to see that the Lynx brand in the UK seems to have run out of steam, with sales down 2.3% in the year to June, according to Marketing magazine. The good news for Unilever is that their other key male deo brand, Sure for Men, is up 14% over the same period. Now, the brand has delivered years of growth, so we shouldn't over-react. But this news did get me wondering if the Lynx team perhaps need to "brand it like Bond". In other words, they need to revitalise the brand in the same way that the Bond producers did when they replaced Brosnan with Daniel Craig. Let's put Lynx through our "Brand it like Bond" test.

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1. Look back: what made you famous? The core idea of making young men more attractive is still relevant to say the least. In the same way that the core idea of "Bond beats the baddie to save the world (and gets the girl)" was still relevant for Bond. Humour has also been a core part of the brand's marketing.

Screen shot 2010-09-23 at 10.23.36 2. Look forward: A big challenge for Lynx is the scary way the teen male consumer has moved on. This is the iPod generation who want to dress in expensive Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch gear, not Top Man. Their aspirations are much higher. And if we look forward, this is likely to continue as a trend. With this in mind, the Lynx pack now lacks style values and seems even a bit cheap.

Also, I wonder if the style of humour in the Lynx brand is past its sell-by date. In the UK we call this humour "laddish": over the top, sexist, women as sex objects etc. Another unsavoury truth could be the rise of internet porn. Young boys no longer need a Lynx ad or website to be titilated. They can find much harder stuff a click away if they want to, whereas before it was on the top shelf of the magazine rack.

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3. Look at direct competition:
this is also a challenging area for the brand. There is fellow Unilever brand Sure. But also the arrival of Dove for Men. In addition, P&G have bought Gillette and are pushing the deo part of it hard. Then there is Nivea. And L'Oreal.

All of these brands have a huge advantage in their deo performance credentials: the product "sausage". They are high-tech Formula 1 machines. In contrast, the core Lynx product has fragrance only to hide the pongy odour, but doesn't stop perspiration. The response to this was launching the Lynx Dry extension. But this meant the performance credentials went in the "new toy", not the core product, and the brand investment was fragmented between 2 product platforms. I also guess many teen boys don't get the difference between Lynx and Lynx Dry.

Unfortunately, this leaves Lynx starting to look like an out-dated Formula 3 car with an under-powered engine. And to make things worse, own label brands have copied the Lynx pack and concept and are offering these copy-cat products at a lower price.

4. Look at in-direct competition: beyond deo Lynx is also competing in image terms against the fine fragrance brands like Calvin Klien and Polo Ralph Lauren. If I was picking a birthday present for my 16 year old nephew I'd get a Polo gift pack, not a Lynx one.

Net, I fear that Lynx is being hit by "a perfrect storm", when a combination of factors combine to challenge the future of a brand. On the one hand the product sausage is suspect, with a lack of deo performance credentials and competition on the fragrance side, from own label below and fine fragrance above. And on the emotional sausage side, is the brand's laddish humour out of date?

I think Lynx needs a Daniel Craig style revamp. One option is to keep on getting more hard-core and provocative on the sex side. But just how far can a Unilever brand go? I wonder how many Unilever board members would feel if they spent an hour surfing the current Lynx website.

The other option is look to brands like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch for inspiration. Stick to seduction, but step-change the aspiration in the brand. Update and revamp the pack to make it look more 2015, less 1995. Loose the laddish, sexist humour and create brand communication which is more classy and aspirational.

But then is this still Lynx? Is it the brand's mix that has reached its sell-by date or the brand itself? Or, is there no need to panic, with the sales decline just a blip?

Please do share your views on what Lynx should do in the comments box!