The “Axe effect” is one of the most famous—borderline infamous—marketing campaigns. The body products company (which is owned by Unilever) developed a marketing strategy to target young men.
The premise? Tell young men that by spraying themselves with Axe body spray or swiping an Axe deodorant, they would become irresistible and instantly sexier to others.
Take it directly from their website. The Axe website’s values section reads, “When you smell good, good things happen. You’re a little more confident and life opens up a world of possibilities. We believe that attraction is for everyone and between anyone.” It continues, “We’re a brand that’s all about attraction. We always have been, and that will never change.”
Is it a hormone-driven marketing ploy? Perhaps.
Is there any legitimate science to back up that Axe body spray will actually make you more attractive to others? Not exactly.
But there is some interesting research that Axe conducted that’s worth paying attention to. In 2021, Axe tapped four renowned gaming streamers from around the world—RossBoomsocks, RobertoCein, xChocoBars , and lpgjustjohnny—to see if wearing Axe body spray could increase their confidence and impact overall gaming ability by up to 0.1%.
Axe dubbed this the “0.1% effect experiment,” and conducted it in two phases: The first phase was the control—participants played games without wearing Axe body spray. Phase two had the participants use Axe body spray. Researchers recorded participants’ vitals and noted any changes between phases, and at the end of the experiment, they found that there was a slight uptick in performance in some of the gamers who wore Axe body spray. The uptick in performance was roughly 0.1%, and while that may not seem like a huge jump, it’s noteworthy that a mere scent has the potential to have a performance-boosting effect. Dr. Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist, and expert on the psychological science of smell said in a media release, "I am not at all surprised to see that Axe had a positive effect on two of the subject's performances. Scents have the ability to alter our emotions and moods more than any other sensory experience. This is because of the unique connection in the brain where scent, emotion, memories, and associations are processed."
The Axe effect isn’t a silo. Other scents have also been shown to alter our moods, change our behavior, and/or boost our performance. For example, peppermint can help boost memory, lavender can induce relaxation, and smelling citrus can help make you feel happier and more confident. So while you may not be dousing yourself in Axe body spray to get the hottest babes, research does support the idea that scent may be tied to our levels of confidence, mood, and behavior, which all also have the potential to influence how we are perceived by others.