Axe is New on Shelves! With Horrible Packaging! 

Spotted on shelves: new bits of the Axe line, in the two splendid scents of Urban and Adrenaline. I just wish the packaging wasn’t an eyesore that contains less product at the same price as the standard body wash line. This was at Target in my city. 

Axe Has An Identity Crisis

Between White Label (eeeeyyyy Mountain Dew!), Matte Effect, Signature, and whatever the heck they are calling the standard line that has Kilo and Phoenix and them, the Axe branding model looks more like a rubber band ball at present. 

The packaging of Axe products has seen two facelifts in five years, and with classics like Pepsi not even budging their font since the late 2000s, this may be a red flag of a brand fighting for relevance in a world of marketing old brands as something more posh and more new than they actually were. 

The line expansion done correctly was Old Spice’s Fresher, Wild, and Hardest Working collections. Personally I could do without the hypermasculine jargon on the labels (then again Marines are hyped anyway simply for being Marines), but the brand has maintained a steady line of scents and neatly organized them into thematic groups. Three scents of Old Spice have been rebranded since 2013: Belize to Citron, Komodo to Desperado, and Lionpride to Krakengard. They still fit in a line of sorts. Axe, in comparison, is just getting confusing. 

My example of this isn’t the stumbling progression of their fancy-name line (Urban, Adrenaline, Signature, and Gold, which smell great but are either in their own category or are categories). It’s a more obvious representation. 

My first experience with Axe hair products was around 2013 when I came back from semester break with a haphazard attempt at a fauxhawk. I was trying to show a girl I fell out with that I was doing just fine without her alliance in my department (she continued to ignore me; shocking). The can that that mess came out of was bulky and perfect for my college douchboy identity. I was trying to be what I wasn’t. 

Now, we have what I actually use, which I bought somewhere between then and last year. It’s a lot more honest about the content, and are easier to fight with than tiny tins of pomade.


Note how the second photo boasts that the design is new. If only they had added that it was short-lived. 

Lastly, we’ve got the tiny tin, which has won over in our age of minimalist marketing. I’m as hipster as the next, but when you can’t remember what your brand looks like, it gets pretty frustrating. 

The endless revamps don’t stop there. Below are two redesigns of the Axe body wash that have a source citation for their brand being so popular. Citations = timelines. This makes this research fun.

Axe Peace was a revamp circa 2014, or at earliest 2013, since the citation of the brand’s consumer trend is 2012. The Excite, which is the current design, has to be around 2015. The citation on this bottle is 2014. So we have two confirmed overhauls within about two years of each other. I see this as problematic because Axe has lost its “look”. To be quite honest, I hope the current design sticks around, but I can’t guarantee that, either.

Sostanza: The Forty Dollar Pencil

The pencil I purchased is hardly as graceful as the photos on the Kickstarter, found here,  but it is every bit as novel an item as the website describes it to be. 

First, let’s dig into what kind of pencil this thing is. A clutch pencil is more or less a shell of metal or plastic that holds a thick line of lead (1.0 mm and higher), and can be advanced via button or other method of loosening the “clutch”. You’ve probably heard about the Staedtler Mars Technico, which is eaaily the most accessible of clutch pencils, but Mitsubishi also has its own line of lead holder with varying degrees. They are also color coded. This is the point where I start drooling aggressively. 

The Sostanza comes in a variety of real wood bodies, with metal finishes to match, since the clutch is released by sliding out a metal ring (it is extremely minimalist and extremely hipster, which makes me very happy). Mine is Black Walnut with a chrome silver finish. You can find online other woods such as pear, a deep red or a black. 

My concerns for this pencil were, first, the price. I knew I would have to save up. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s handmade in Italy, but the price is pretty high. My purchase was approximately 35 USD. The second potential issue was the body of the pencil; growing up in the woods of Michigan taught me how hard and how brittle the material can be. Being a percussion major showed me that any of the right force will break it. 

The Sostanza held up. I can squeeze the thing when I write, and I press pretty hard to the page. When positioned at the tightest spot the ring won’t move,and will even take some coaxing when you want to advance the lead, which is a stony HB grade. Also note that the Sostanza has the tapered design of a fountain pen, which is really neat to behold in person. 

When I write with the Sostanza, I describe the experience as “wood and stone”. The core that comes with the pencil is a very tough HB, scratchy but not as bad as the Field Notes pencil, which I nicknamed “Scratchy Sails”. I would say that the Field Notes is tougher, because you can feel the give of the Sostanza as it writes. My peeve about this pencil is that there is no way to sharpen the core, in addition to the fact that the wood seems to me a little thin, which brings on my aforementioned worry that the utensil will break. 

I have read a Facebook comment on the Erasable Podcast group that described the Sostanza as a “little cello”. I can’t say that I have heard the musical quality that my fellow stationerd has, but I definitely feel the lightweight aspect of the Sostanza in my hand. Spare leads can be found online and at OfficeMax next to the Mars Technico. 

The Sostanza is by no means at a price point that many would find within their taste. It is handmade in Italy, so that’s probably the reasoning, ha ha. I could easily see this pencil appearing in an episode of Frasier. I do appreciate the pencil for its experience and the way that it simply is. I would highly recommend it for a stationerd after something highly unique that is mostly functional.