Axe and Lil Baby’s Foray Into Fine Fragrances Passes Gen Z’s Smell Test

The new spot and campaign from The Martin Agency mark a homecoming and a continued new direction for the brand

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The partnership between Axe and Lil Baby already had the sweet smell of success, given the rapper’s open affection toward the brand prior to his stratospheric rise. But the duo’s latest campaign—by way of The Martin Agency—drives that point home as they find creative ways to introduce Gen Z to the world of fine fragrances.

In “G.O.A.T. Mall,” the inaugural spot for “The Fine Fragrance G.O.A.T” campaign announcing the launch of the brand’s Fine Fragrance Collection, a four-armed version of the “Drip Too Hard” artist (whose hit is used in the spot) appears from a “special” fragrance counter to persuade mallgoers to try the scents. One sniff then transforms them into animated video game characters, with the spot’s hygienic hero sporting a blinged-out goat helmet to indicate his new status as the real G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) for making the right choice.

The brand also released a 15-second spot for the bodywash on social. Both spots were directed by Mike Diva, whose previous work includes SNL’s famed shorts.

“We set out to create new fresh symbols of luxury,” Mik Manulik, creative director at The Martin Agency, said in a statement. “To create something that truly didn’t look like anything else out there.”

“We pulled from anime, gaming, music, modern art [and] wove them together to bring to life a visually stunning world of new luxury. One that perfectly represents the new Fine Fragrance Collection.”

The vibrant and trippy spots continue the brand’s tradition of being fun and fearless with the creative to match their artist muse and, importantly, the Gen Z audience who typically eschews (and sometimes mock) fragrance brands that take themselves too seriously.

“This is the freshest thing Axe has ever done,” added Lil Baby in the statement. “The Fine Fragrance Collection has me feeling like I’m wearing the finest of fine colognes. That’s why it’s the new GOAT.”

Caroline Gregory, Axe’s global brand director, tells Adweek the brand was thrilled to reunite with the red-hot rapper for the campaign and teased that fans are getting just a whiff of what’s to come with the aromatic alliance.

“We’re excited about continuing our partnership with Lil Baby again this year,” says Gregory. “He is an existing AXE user—it’s actually on his tour rider—so the partnership makes a lot of sense for us.’

The spot launched on March 13 and will run across broadcast and streaming networks, with a concentration on primetime sporting and entertainment programming in addition to social, where the brand recently released its hugely successful “Ratio Challenge” campaign, which has amassed an impressive 8 billion views on TikTok since its Feb. 23 launch.

Greatest (launch) of all time

The gutsy multichannel marketing campaign kicked off with a 3D billboard takeover in Times Square boasting some surprising-but-true stats (according to the brand), attesting that 73% of participants in a blind smell test preferred the new Axe scents in comparison to their premium fragrance counterparts from luxury brands Chanel, Versace and Polo Ralph Lauren.

The brand then encouraged fans to “ratio” other things they thought Axe smelled better than by typing their answers into their TikTok filter, which would then put the user’s face and answer on a can of the fragrance. Gen Z comedians Preacher Lawson and Adam Conover and TV and film personality Chanel West Coast kicked off the TikTok challenge on their accounts.

“Over the past few years, we’ve put a big emphasis on better understanding the Gen-Z male and showing up in a way that’s authentic to them, so we love that they are resonating with our campaign,” says Gregory of the response.

A scents-ational return to a formula that works

While Axe has embraced a whimsical approach to their marketing, they’re taking both their investment in the Gen Z customer and their return to their fragrance roots very seriously.

The Unilever brand recruited Givaudan and Firmenich—two of the world’s top perfumers—along with Ann Gottlieb, a renowned fragrance developer who honed her craft under Estée Lauder, to formulate the five scents: Blue Lavender, Green Geranium, Aqua Bergamot, Golden Mango and Pure Coconut.

“AXE was first introduced in France in 1983 as the first-ever eau de toilette and deodorant hybrid for men. What’s new today is the fact that Gen Z has redefined what premium is. To them, it’s more about a feeling of confidence than a price tag, so we have crafted an affordable range that smells as good as fine fragrance to give them this confidence, ” Gregory said.

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