Revitalisation beats re-positioning: the new Lynx Effect

Two years ago, I posted on Lynx’s revitalisation using a revamped version of their original brand idea: The NEW Lynx* Effect. I suggested this was a better way forward than an earlier 2016 attempt to re-position with a totally new global brand idea: Find Your Magic. So, I was intrigued to read a post about Lynx’s latest campaign by Andrew Tindall of System 1. “It’s one of the most emotionally intense ads we’ve ever tested,” he posted (1). The campaign has two films, created by Lola MullenLowe: The Funeral and The Robbery (2).

In this post, I explore learning from the revitalisation of the Lynx brand, re-capping the past attempts and then looking at the new campaign.

* Lynx is the UK name for the brand called Axe in other parts of the word

1. The risks of the 2016 re-positioning

The attempted 2016 relaunch was described by Global Brand Director Rik Strubel as “the biggest re-positioning of the brand in the last 20 years”. This set my alarm bells ringing. Why? Because “re-positioning” is horribly hard to pull off, as it requires breaking the ‘memory structure’ associated with the brand. With Find Your Magic, the brand ‘laddered up’ to a highly emotional level, featuring a kaleidoscope of different types of guy (see below). We had different races and sexual orientations. We had a bloke with a big nose. And a bearded dude who liked kittens. The campaign deserved applause for diversity and inclusion but had a couple of big issues:

  • All sizzle, no sausage: for 20 years Lynx told a product story about fragrances that make you feel confident and attractive, with emotional sizzle from a distinctive tone and style, summed up as The Lynx Effect. The new communication showed Lynx users being chilled, relaxed and feeling good about themselves. But the brand was no longer the catalyst for them being more confident and attractive.
  • Loss of distinctiveness: the laddish humour Lynx used in the 2000’s and 2010’s was gone and rightly so; I called this humour “past its sell-by date” way back in this 2010 post. However, Find Your Magic didn’t seem to create a new distinctive tone of voice to help the brand stand out

2. The 2021 revitalisation

2021 saw the brand ditch the Find Your Magic re-positioning and instead seek to revitalise by remembering and refreshing what made the brand famous. With The New Lynx Effect, the focus was on refreshing existing memory structure rather than trying to break it. Encouragingly, the brand’s purpose was firmly rooted back on the original functional foundation of smelling great:

When you smell irresistible, anything can happen. You’re a little more confident and life opens up a world of possibilities. We believe that attraction is for everyone and between anyone. It doesn’t matter your race, your sexuality or your pronouns. If you’re into it and they’re into it, we’re into it.

With the New Lynx Effect, smelling good was the key to feeling confident, with the product playing a heroic role right from the first frame. We were back to seeing “a regular guy feeling extraordinary”, as in the Lynx ads of old, but with a contemporary, colourful portrayal of his journey. Conventional versions of the Lynx effect were featured, with a young lady impressed by the Lynx fragrance. But we also had other fun portrayals of the Lynx effect, including colourful butterflies to signify the fragrance, happy hot dogs in the form of the main character and a cameo from champion boxer Anthony Joshua

3. The 2024 Campaign

Fast forward today and we have the latest iteration of The New Lynx Effect, suggesting that the 2021 revitalisation worked well. The campaign has two films, as mentioned earlier. The Funeral is really out there and is a definite love or hate job. A young woman at a funeral can’t resist the smell of, er, the dead guy in the coffin! I prefer The Robbery, which to my eyes has dark humour but is in less bad taste. A female robber tries to hold up a café, only to be distracted by the smell of the young guy working in there, thanks to the Lynx Effect (below).

We can analyse how it works using our “James Bond” framework for revitalisation:

LOOK BACK: the team have done a great job of looking back at what made Lynx famous with the Lynx Effect. Refreshing these distinctive attributes and brand assets is reflected it the campaign achieving an impressive correct band recognition score of 90% (1).

  • Narrative of an ordinary guy using Lynx and having an incredible experience
  • Central role of fragrance and smelling good
  • Use of humour
  • “The Lynx Effect” idea and slogan

LOOK FORWARD: at the same time, the team and agency have looked forward to understand what is changing in culture. As with the 2021 version, we have ditched the out of date laddish humour. We recognise the strong role of women in society for good or, in these case, for bad. Also, the campaign taps into the type of entertainment that is popular in 2024. The Funeral might be shocking. But it has the sort of dark and controversial humour used in the hit movie Saltburn (avoid this movie if you don’t like The Robbery!) Interestingly, the campaign really “splits the room” as Andrew explains. “The younger the audience is, the more they love it”. So, whilst some readers might dislike the campaign, it seems to connect with the core, youth focused target audience

LOOK at INDIRECT COMPETITION: in addition to looking at direct competition, we encourage teams to consider the indirect competition. In the case of Lynx, the brand is not just competing for share of market, but also “share of attention” against the multiple forms of visual entertainment out there today. The boldest work I’ve seen in a long time. This is what happens when we admit ads compete with Netflix shows, not other ads,” rightly points out Andrew.

In conclusion, the Lynx revitalisation shows how to re-connect with your brand’s roots whilst refreshing the expression of your positioning to be stay relevant for today.


1. System 1 post on the new campaign

2. The Robbery film