Branding
Sharpening up
the old axe

We think that Axe Brand Universal Oil is an old classic which is still doing well, but is perhaps too complacent. It already ‘works’, but we feel it could certainly do much better and find new markets with the right kind of fine tuning. The question is, what kind of fine tuning?

The key challenge is how to refresh this unique old brand to attract younger customers, without alienating its existing customer base locally and internationally. In our blog piece ‘Refreshing heritage brands’, we pointed out that two of the key ways to help heritage brands find a new lease of is to leverage their heritage and connect with the consumer. So that’s the approach we took with Axe Brand.

Enhancing the heritage look

When it comes to updating a heritage brand, many companies often underestimate the level of affection for their brand story and the visual equities in their brand, even among the young. Axe Brand has an iconic status which is in no small part down to its unique and authentic looking package design. It looks like a Chinese medicinal brand, born in Singapore in about 1928, and that look works. But while it looks authentic, we think it needs a bit of updating and refining to boost its appeal to a younger audience.

So we re-crafted the heraldic axe icon, infusing it with a more contemporary style, to look more current and less dated. We retained the blue and green colours, but tweaked them to maximise contrast. We simplified the border pattern for legibility and clarity, especially for smaller packs. We updated the typography to create a more consistent look and enhance readability, without sacrificing the boldness of the original. We streamlined the product information to declutter pack and create a better hierarchy. Finally we highlighted the heritage visually by creating a date flash in a style that goes with the overall look and feel of the pack design. This detail brings out the heritage as well as the longevity and efficacy of the product and brand.

Connecting with new customers

The brand was born with a clear sense of purpose – to provide a very low-cost and portable cure-all for many of life’s most common health irritations, at a time when most people could not afford to see a doctor. It was also launched with some very canny branding and marketing focused on this simple proposition, which for its time was very cutting edge and smart. We thought we should relaunch the brand with some equally canny advertising, focusing on its original proposition – an amazing cure-all which you can take anywhere.

To target a younger and more fashion conscious audience, we devised copy lines and images which underline the product’s usefulness in witty ways. The language is more current and conversational, highlighting its dependable old school properties in contemporary scenarios. The photographic imagery is geared towards lifestyle/fashion, while the copy and ad design leverages the visual language of the brand, with its strong typography and distinctive blue-green border. The aim of this combination is to create an interesting juxtaposition, and a more millennial vibe. The approach is simple, witty, graphic, visually impactful, and easy to identify with, making the brand more relevant in the digital and social media space too.