When you think of Axe, what usually comes to mind? I used to think of Axe as an adolescent deodorant brand better known for its brilliant TV ads but not so much for its product. After the brand’s absolutely insane product launch party last night, it’s clear that Axe is on a mission to step up its product offering as well as redefine masculine archetypes.
Guests arrived to the swanky and discreet Soho venue, but the lobby offered little beyond a complimentary bar and a peculiar view of a pool littered with disco balls, dumbbells, and the support structure for a runway. As we all walked in, we were handed color coded cards named after the scent categories that would later be featured during the event. Up until this point, everything was shrouded in mystery, and I along with everyone else had no idea what this product launch was or what wild times lied ahead.
As luck would have it, I was in the Adrenaline group which was first to enter the spectacle. I cautiously headed upstairs with my plus one into an open space that served as the ground level for the pool view I’d snapped pics of downstairs. We were greeted by lovely drag queen Lili Whiteass, who encouraged us to get freaky and find our magic (a phrase I’d hear many more times throughout the night). She sauntered up and down the translucent runway cracking jokes about her makeup and engaging with each of us as though we were at a private burlesque show. I felt like I was entering a sultry combination of Sleep No More and Moulin Rouge. And what better way to shatter the stereotypical masculinity of Axe’s past marketing by greeting your guests with a drag queen?
On the next level, the room had the feel of a library…if it was in a Meatpacking District nightclub. This was sensory overload but in the best way possible. Passed hors d’oeuvres included pork belly and mac & cheese balls. There was a plethora of passed drinks including whiskey cocktails, pale ales, and sake. And the space was invigorated by the energy of people Axe has helped find their magic.
Alejandro Palma, one of five recording artists mentored by John Legend through his partnership with Axe, sang pop-inflected R&B jams in the corner. On the opposite side of the room, Greg T offered up top notch shoe shines while designer Stan Cheung showcased prime athleisure selections from his Eysom line. Just upstairs on the very top level, Ben Venom engaged with me about his rockstar quilts, which are made from 100% recyclable materials. His quilts as well as other offerings were the epitome of art and function. And noted photographer Lee Cherry took action shots of guests jumping on a trampoline in front of an aerial NYC backdrop. And pickle connoisseur Shamus Jones was on hand to share his Brooklyn Brine pickle variety.
Legend himself even made an appearance later in the night to talk to the crowd about his ongoing partnerships with Axe. Of course, the crowd went nuts.
Though this was a product launch, the product was never front and center. Whether or not that’s to the detriment of Axe remains to be seen. But it’s definitely interesting to see large brands take a more experiential and organic approach to promoting products. The new line of deodorants and pomades, offered in Signature, Urban, and Adrenaline scents, was very discreetly placed throughout the venue. The main room featured large banners hanging on the walls. But any engagement taking place with the PR staff bouncing around the space was all about the event elements. Nothing about the product. For the millennial crowd, it was more about creating a memory and an experience that will hopefully be tied to their brand name and product.
All in all, the event was like an Axe commercial. Five levels of intrigue, discovery, and intense ambience. A raging good time. Axe for sure knows how to throw one hell of a party. And this was seemingly all part of one stealth ingenious plan to encourage us all to find our magic with an Axe scent peppering our underarms.