Axe, the deodorant brand, abandoned all notions of objectivity in research by going “full immersion” when exploring what the concept of attraction means for its target audience of young men.

“When it comes to really empathising with people, experiencing something first-hand always wins,” Dr Matilda Andersson, London MD for Crowd DNA, told the recent MRS Impact conference.

Axe brand’s marketing has evolved significantly in recent years from suggesting that all that’s needed to attract women is a squirt of deodorant, to a more nuanced view of masculinity and how individualism can be attractive.

“Axe knows what they don’t want to be, but they’re still learning about what they want to be,” Andersson explained. “And that’s where this project came in.” (For more, read WARC’s report: How Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Axe moved beyond objectivity in research.)

Her research involved pairing Axe team stakeholders with participants in six different markets to experience the realities of a night out with a group of young men, riding in their cars, going to their homes, hanging out with them in malls, bars and cafes.

In this way “we were able to explore the dating journey in detail and, using friendship triads, help the guys feel confident for them to stay honest, but also for us to explore the social dynamic of places of attraction.”

The confidence young men display online isn’t always mirrored in real life, she noted. “It was that feeling of being outside your comfort zone that we wanted to mirror for our in real life, or IRL, immersions. Because when you’re outside your comfort zone, your emotions and alertness to take things in is heightened.”

As a researcher she too was outside her comfort zone as her team didn’t accompany the participants and stakeholders.

The debrief was kept informal, taking place in a bar for example; Crowd DNA also built a copy of a guy’s bedroom to help those people from Axe and creative agency 72andSunny who couldn’t be there discover some of the things the research had found.

“What all of this laddered up to is that the Axe team and their creative agency can in the future, produce products and content that really shows that they get him (“the guy”) and that helps him build his confidence,” Andersson reported.

Sourced from WARC