- Axe, the men's fragrance, hair and body care brand, is promulgating the newly minted concept of "bathsculinity" as it tries to chop away at harmful masculine stereotypes. The noun is defined by Axe as "qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of young men who take pride in their appearance and feel confident in expressing their most attractive selves, inside and outside of the bathroom," according to a company press release.
- To spread the message, the Unilever brand has partnered with actor and comedian Lil Rel Howery of "Get Out" and "Bird Box" fame on a series of 15-second spots for YouTube. In the ads, Howery is taking a bubble bath in a room filled with candles, and usually holding a bottle of Axe body wash. In each, he puts a humorous spin on bathing, such as when he cups soap suds in his hand and speaks to them.
- In addition to the videos with Howery, Axe has commissioned new research, conducted in conjunction with Promundo, that found that outdated stereotypes of manhood cost the U.S. economy at least $15.7 billion annually as a result of harmful behaviors. It also partnered with education specialists Cairn Guidance to expand its Axe Senior Orientation program into an in-school curriculum.
Axe has been on a mission to get men to embrace self-care and grow self-confidence. The intersection of masculinity and grooming products has been an intriguing topic particularly for health and beauty companies who want to evolve beyond traditional gender stereotypes to be more in line with younger consumers, especially those that are leaving legacy brands for disruptor and direct-to-consumer companies like Harry's and Dollar Shave Club.
Axe has been at the forefront of this movement. In 2017 the company published research which found that 72% of men have been told that real men should behave a certain way, and launched its "Is It Ok For Guys?" campaign, which it extended last year into high school workshops with rapper-actor Kyle and masculinity expert and poet Carlos Andres Gomez. "Bathsculinity" is another twist on Axe’s "there's no one way to be a man" message, and relies on a popular comedic actor to deliver it.
Axe is not alone in this space as numerous brands have made the topic of masculinity a focus of their marketing. Schick Hydro last year debuted "The Man I Am," a campaign that included user-generated content and a video series starring NBA star Kevin Love.Just for Men created the "Be the Better Man" campaign and Bonobos challenged the definition of masculinity in a 90-second micro-documentary. Perhaps most notably, Gillette challenged men to be better with its "We Believe" commercial, which saw tremendous social media outcry — not of of which was negative.