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There are about 84,000 of them, each filled with a potent oil, divided up among the lab’s 28 bays. IFF is currently trying to win the contract for Axe’s 2014 scent (it releases at least one a year), competing against other fragrance houses. For here, at this very lab, the same scientists, with the same equipment, often with the same ingredients, are designing elegant 0 colognes and .99 bottles of Axe body spray.Every time some rich banker prowls around town wearing Calvin Klein’s Eternity or a debutante trails Oscar de la Renta’s Live in Love across an Upper East Side penthouse party, they are rewarding the labors of IFF’s team of perfumers. And if Axe conjures anything in the mind of someone old enough to drink (legally), it’s that of a dive-bar meat market and a backward-hatted jock bathed in a fog of musk. She’s a consultant who worked on Eternity and Live in Love, too. You could say it’s molecular: A fine fragrance is designed with differently weighted molecules, some evaporating faster than others, so that a scent evolves as it’s worn. “It’s an instant-delivery kind of product,” Gottlieb explains. Guys don’t stand in Walmart hanging out testing fragrances.”Then again, you could say the contrast between Axe and those classy scents really has little to do with composition–that, in truth, the biggest difference is in the marketing.And when these new pledges are brought in, they’re even shown an indoctrination film.It’s a classic clip from , where the hero, Neo, is offered two pills–a blue one to preserve his ignorance, or a red one that will show him a new reality. “It encapsulates what the Axe Republic is about,” Rubin says.Which is just fine, apparently, because these guys’ game expired the moment they graduated.Axe managers are trained to discard old tactics–to know that every year, a new horde of kids will enter their demographic with new social habits and that Axe can’t speak to them like it spoke to last year’s class.Theirs is an adventurous life, involving frequent forays into college towns, where the Axe team joins bar crawls and keggers.
’ We either do the spot, or we don’t.” Still, he says, the Republic isn’t cavalier.When she comes to IFF for visits, the company rounds up men like Lorello so she can smell Axe prototypes on him. I tell Lorello he’s fortunate that Axe doesn’t actually compel women to charge toward him.Here in the lab it would trigger a mad rush resulting in thousands of broken bottles, glass and blood and fluid everywhere, and a choking perfumery stench requiring a full-floor evacuation.And yet, if this were just a case of “sex sells,” Axe’s siren call would be easy to replicate. Axe, which is owned by Unilever, is a .5 billion global brand with relentless growth (retail sales rose 13.6% from 2010 to 2011).Its success is largely the result of a sophisticated, cutting-edge marketing machine that constantly monitors youth culture’s subtle shifts so as to stay hot on the hormone trail.