The Effect of Spraying Axe: The Semiotic outlook

When I was in high school the class I always looked forward to was gym.  Well after every gym class there would be a distinct aroma in the locker room.  If you were to walk into that locker room after a gym class almost everybody in there was spraying on some different scent of Axe.

Different varieties of Axe body spray

Ever wonder why a group of sixteen year old boys aren’t putting on cologne such as Giorgi Armani after gym class, but instead they have chosen Axe?  We all watch t.v and I’m sure we have all encountered an Axe commercial at some point in time.  One of the most outrageous Axe commercials I have seen was when billions of girls were running from all parts of the world to a beach where a young man was spraying himself with Axe.  In the New York Times article, “Masculinity in a Spray Can”  author Jan Hoffman talks about the phenomenon of young teen age boys purchasing  Axe in large quantities.  “The surge is certainly due in large measure to new marketing strategies,And armies of researchers note that tween boys have modest disposable incomes, just fine for products that typically sell for less than $7 .” (Hoffman) At a cheap price within range of a young teenage male’s expense, and marketing tactics that draw them towards the product they have created a great signifier.

How has the Axe phenomenon affected our teen males outlook on products being marketed? As Dr.Tracy states in our lecture,  semiotics is the study of social production of meaning from sign systems;analysis of anything  that can stand for something else.  “Boys are paying attention to personal brands more than ever because it’s too easy to be criticized virally by a girl.” (Hoffman) So with the constant urge to impress girls and to date them, in the mind of a teenage boy at about age thirteen using Axe can attract large quantities of women. As shown in the video clip of an Axe commercial below.

Another term covered in Dr.Tacy’s lecture was the systematic belief system.  Systematic belief systems are represented as natural, “that’s just the way things are” states Dr.Tracy.  So as we see in the commercial above, billions of girls should “always” flock to the young man spraying Axe on himself.  In our society a “manly” man is supposed to be sexual and get lots of women, the Axe commercials are just solidifying the idea that a man can get almost any female he wants just by simply applying this fragrance to himself.  This example may also be used to show off the idea of Roland Barthes explanation of myth as well, Barthes says that myth is the connotative meaning that signs carry wherever  they go, myths make what is cultural seem natural.

Lets go back to my question that asks why teenage boys are choosing to put on Axe body spray instead of a cologne such as Giorgi Armani.  Well we have learned from the article “Masculinity in a Spray Can” that Axe markets their product directly to teenage males to their convenience within a price range of around $7, and of course we can’t forget the notion that they might be ran down by a billion beautiful women.


Hoffman, J. (2010, 29 01). Masculinity in a spray can. . Retrieved from


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One Response to The Effect of Spraying Axe: The Semiotic outlook

  1. Anne Wilson says:

    Wayne, you give a very good example of Semiotics. As a girl, I can still remember that distinct smell of Axe’s cologne seeping through the boys locker room after gym. Thinking back, I can remember my friends telling me I smelled like “boy”, after hugging a friend that had just sprayed himself with Axe. For us, the signifier, Axe, signified boys.

    As a girl, I couldn’t help but think about women perfume commercials and all the images that came up were of sensual, sexual women. These commercials signify that in order to be appear as sexy, we need to spray certain perfumes. I know that I pick out my perfume according to my activity. I know I use one that is signified as “sexy” for my nights out. These texts could even be studied in several other communication theories. I can see this being spotlighted in cultural study theories. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!!

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