- Unilever's Axe will host orientation workshops for high school seniors addressing outdated male stereotypes in October as part of a National Bullying Prevention Month push, according to a news release. The effort includes partnerships with the rapper and actor Kyle and masculinity expert and poet Carlos Andres Gomez.
- Axe piloted the program last year at Centennial High School in Columbus, Ohio, and 81% of participating students said their view of masculinity changed for the better. This year's orientations will kick off at Centennial and will be held at two other yet-to-be-announced schools. Curricula will encourage students to replace toxic behaviors, such as "locker-room talk" with positivity and inclusivity. Internal studies Axe condudcted with Promundo found that one in three guys admit to bullying a peer, and three in four have been victims of bullies.
- The Senior Orientation project is part of Axe's "Find Your Magic" platform aimed at breaking down toxic masculinity by providing men with more resources. As part of the program, Axe also launched an #AXEpressYourself social initiative with anti-bullying nonprofit Ditch the Label, which challenges men to experiment with new hairstyles and find what makes them unique. Axe donated $1 to Ditch the Label for each new style shared and tagged with the hashtag.
Toxic masculinity is a subject that Axe has put at the forefront of its marketing strategy over the past year or so as it looks to pivot away from a prior image that focused on bro-y messaging that was occasionally criticized for selling sexism. The news reflects how the Unilever grooming and fragrance brand is continuing to expand its initiatives centered on social causes, in this case educating young men about outdated gender stereotypes. Marketers have broadly begun to craft more comprehensive cause- and purpose-driven campaigns that go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility programs, as these efforts can grow brand valuation with consumers.
Axe's "Find Your Magic" platform appears squarely targeted at the younger millennial and Gen Z set given the focus on high schoolers and celebrities like Kyle. Gen Zers are viewed as feeling closely attached to their identities, but are more frequently resisting the types of broad, demographic-based targeting that marketers have leveraged for decades.
Last year, Axe launched a campaign in a similar vein called "Is It Okay for Guys?," which was part of "Find Your Magic" and based on actual Google searches men made, such as whether they can be emotional, wear makeup or experiment sexually. Research published by the brand and Promundo at the time examined the pressure men feel to live up to male gender stereotypes, and found that those who don't fit into the norms are unhappy and 20% had considered suicide.
Axe's parent company Unilever has made a heavy push to eliminate these types of stereotypes across its brands. The CPG giant recently expanded its Unstereotype initiative to all content formats and called on content creators and distributors to also remove outdated gender stereotypes from their marketing.