How to smell like a man

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Hey, guys, how would you like to smell like “Wilderness, Open Air & Freedom”? All you need to do is introduce your underarm to Old Spice Denali deodorant, one of the many different brands available in the increasingly crowded category of men’s personal body care products. Clearly, times have changed since Right Guard was the only game in town. Nowadays Procter & Gamble and Unilever alone have made choosing deodorant feel like sampling different flavors of ice cream. For the discerning male trying to make sense of the myriad brands filling the air with pungent aromas, I’ve simplified your choices into five categories, ranging from the sickeningly sweet to in-your-face pure macho:

1. The Sweet Smell of Success


The Procter & Gamble Old Spice Fresh Collection has cornered the market on products for men who want to smell like women. Fiji promise to make you radiate a scent of “palm trees, sunshine & freedom.” Aqua Reef “gives your armpit that fresh Caribbean feeling it craves.” But Unilever isn’t going to go down easily. Its notoriously fruity AXE deodorant line features something called “Twist,” which relies on green colored lettering and a lime colored stick to give you a “fresh burst that evolves into a smooth, sexy scent” (according to the AXE website), as if to address head-on any fear on the buyer’s part that smelling fresh and sweet is going to turn you into a complete wuss. Want to get the girl? Smell like her.

2. The Manly Man

And then there’s Mitchum Power Gel — nothing but raw power for those who dream of ruling the office like the head of a military junta. Mitchum Power Gel is all about SUPERIOR STRENGTH according to the front of the stick (and in case you don’t get it, the back of stick touts Ultimate Strength). The message is clear: don’t mess with the man who wears Mitchum. And Old Spice Swagger goes a step further — it “transforms unfresh men into legends of confidence.” Now you’re talking, baby.

3. Nudge, Nudge, Wink Wink

AXE Dark Temptation oozes so much adolescent male sexuality that no product description is needed. The name says it all: try me and make yourself irresistible. By the way, so far as I can tell, there is nothing particularly dark nor tempting about the product — it smells pretty much like AXE Phoenix, Excite, and every other AXE deodorant, which is to say like a room full of burning Nag Champa Dhoop Cones. But no matter: guys don’t buy AXE for the product; they willingly submit to the pretend world of rampant sexuality that AXE has created through its relentless ads, like this:

Perhaps in a bid to compete with the horny allure of AXE, Old Spice proudly presents After Hours in a loud red stick that downplays the hopelessly square looking Spinnaker logo (evocative of your dad’s Roger Whittaker record collection) and dials up the vaguely Vegas-looking red, black, and gold colors along with this puzzling description: “From drag racing to pillow fights, the most awesome things happen at night.” Apparently after hours with Old Spice Guy can take you to some unpredictable places.

4. The Ass-Kicking Jock

Those of us still clinging to the notion that we can swing a baseball bat or dribble a basketball without looking like fools have discovered the joys of super macho athletic deodorant. And you just know Right Guard Total Defense Power Play is going to fuel your game. It’s the Official Deodorant of the NBA, after all — says so right on the cap. Right Guard Total Defense Power Play spells out its plan of attack in five easily digestible bullet points that look like they were taken straight out of a corporate PowerPoint deck for an alpha male corporate retreat:

1. BLOCKS SWEAT extra effectively

2. TIME-RELEASED for long-lasting odor protection

3. TARGETS BACTERIA that cause odor


5. PROTECTS 48 HRS from odor, 24 hours from wetness.

Yep — the Dial Corporation crams all that information on one container both front and back. Meantime, DEGREE MEN SPORT DEFENSE (yes, ALL CAPS) by Unilever promises to step up its game as you do. “Adrenaline can make you sweat,” the container kindly explains for those of us who don’t know. “DEGREE MEN SPORT DEFENSE is designed to respond to increase in adrenaline, releasing extra bursts of fragrance when you sweat.” To show that this is a really serious product, Unilever packages DEGREE MEN SPORT DEFENSE in a dark shade of macho black.

5. The High-Tech Geek

Unilever wants you to know that Dove MEN + CARE Clinical Protection is not like all the other pedestrian brands crowding the shelves at your local Target. The deodorant with a wordy title is packaged in a grey box that says, “I cost more!” — and indeed it does. And this is no ordinary deodorant — it’s “the first men’s antiperspirant deodorant from Dove that gives you powerful protection in a non-irritant formula.” And whereas most other deodorants have simple, one-sentence directions for use that any Philistine can understand (“apply to underarm”), Dove MEN + CARE Clinical Protection offers a paragraph of instructions explaining why I’m better off using the product right before I go to bed than in the morning (a habit I cannot imagine adopting). I’m working up a sweat processing all this information — and I’ve not even opened the damned box. If ever there were an official deodorant for the Apple fan boy, this complicated machine is the one.

I don’t see any end to the proliferation of male deodorants as the market continues to boom. Marketers have armed themselves with increasingly sophisticated tools that allow them to segment consumers into more highly refined ways — not just by age or life style, but age, lifestyle, location, purchasing preference, and a host of other attributes. With the ability to segment consumers comes the development of more diverse products — for everything from the the media we c0nsume to the deodorant we use.

And for our part, despite what you hear about consumers wanting to take control of our relationship with brands, consumers still want brands to entertain and intrigue us — which is exactly why we reach for an Old Spice Matterhorn to embrace the great outdoors in our own bedrooms.

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