Marketing to real metrosexual men February 29, 2008Posted by grhomeboy in Marketing, MetroSexual.
Tags: Gay Life, Lifestyle, MetroSexual
Despite the cliche that men are simpler to understand than women, they remain a surprisingly tricky proposition for marketers. They can be quite easy to reach when it comes to cars, power tools, junk food and gadgets; but persuading men to buy fashion, skincare products or low-calorie foods is a different matter.
Men are conspicuous under-consumers in a whole range of categories, leaving advertisers unhappy. An obvious question is: haven’t men changed? Aren’t they all metrosexual now, proudly wearing Armani underpants and slathering themselves in moisturiser? The answer lies somewhere between ‘a few of them’ and ‘well, no’.
The term ‘metrosexual’ was coined by journalist Mark Simpson in 1994 and raised to marketing stardom by Marian Salzman, now director of strategic content at JWT. The media wholeheartedly adopted her interpretation of the metrosexual , churning out reams of copy about the straight guy who was ‘just gay enough’. Advertisers welcomed him with open arms, due to his taste for expensive skincare products, stylish clothes and minimalist home furnishings . His toned torso unfurled across billboards, most often in the shape of David Beckham.
One small snag, though: in real life, he barely existed. In 2006, a study by ad agency Leo Burnett Worldwide estimated that only one-fifth of the male population could truly be placed in the ‘metrosexual’ bracket, while the others expressed no interest in joining them.
When men were asked by a Harris poll to name their role models, the top 10 responses included Clint Eastwood , Sean Connery and John Wayne. Men admire toughness, authority, responsibility and what Ernest Hemingway described as ‘grace under pressure’ . They aspire to power, money and status. Silky smooth skin doesn’t come into it.
In terms of advertising, celebrities tend to dominate, as in the women’s market, but men are particularly attracted to authenticity and accomplishment. Sports heroes always go down well, hence Gillette’s latest campaign featuring Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry.
Actors need to be older and a little rougher around the edges; more Daniel Craig than Orlando Bloom. These images are trafficked by men’s magazines , although they tend to be preaching to the converted . Product placement and sponsorship are far more effective ways of reaching shop-phobic males.
That’s why the Bond movies have become male brand juggernauts. Nor do men shop as enthusiastically as metrosexuals are said to. They are reluctant shoppers, remaining loyal to a core selection of trusted brands. They tend to base their purchasing choices on timeless notions of authenticity, craftsmanship and performance . Few of them shop for pleasure, instead adopting a ‘search and destroy’ strategy. They go out looking for a raincoat and they come back with a raincoat.
Mintel confirmed the patent lack of metrosexuality in the real world when it looked at the UK toiletries market in 2006. It concluded that men’s toiletries had failed to achieve the explosive growth anticipated since the late 80s, when Shulton launched its Insignia men’s range.
This was supposed to herald the emergence of the ‘new man’ , but the reality was that most were not ready to embrace a grooming regime featuring myriad products. Instead, it has been a much slower process, which, according to the report, has highlighted ‘that men will never adopt the levels of interest and investment in the toiletries industry that is fuelling the women’s beauty industry’.
That is not to say that the market is not growing. Mintel valued the men’s toiletries market at £751m in 2005, up by 28% since 2000. But skincare made up only 6% of the total, which was dominated by fragrances (44%). According to trend-tracking service WGSN, in 2006 the UK male grooming market was worth £818m, within which skincare was the fastestgrowing sector, up 14% to £68m. So men are definitely buying skin products, but on the face of the market, compared with women, they’re a mere freckle.
‘The fact is that men are wired differently,’ says Margaret Jobling, director of male grooming at Unilever. She joined the company in summer 2006; until then it had been organised into brands and categories, so nobody had sole responsibility for male-oriented products. Jobling’s role is to co-ordinate Unilever’s approach to the male market.
‘A lot of beauty marketing is about the power of attraction. But what do women look for in men? They look for financial stability, emotional strength, loyalty, security and, yes, a good sense of humour . Shiny hair and soft skin are a long way down the list,’ she says.
From her own research into the male market she discovered that male consumers are ploddingly practical. They must be lured with functionality and performance, rather than an esoteric ‘brand universe’ designed to make them buy into a better life. As a result, skincare brands tend to be packaged as tools.
For example , the Swiss brand Task Essential includes in its range products such as Oxywater O2 Oxygen Spray and Stop Burning aftershave. Lab-Series Skincare for Men is another example. ‘High-tech , high performance, high results’ boasts its website, which assures the male consumer that its products are created by ‘an elite team of doctors, scientists and skincare specialists’.
Its products include Mega Foam Shave and Root Power Hair Tonic. Men appreciate humour, too. Skincare brand Nickel takes a jocular approach with products such as Smooth Operator shaving gel, Fire Insurance aftershave moisturiser, Silicon Valley antiwrinkle cream, and Morning After revitalising lotion. As Jobling observes, creating products for men is not the problem; finding the right language in which to communicate to them is the real challenge.
Then there’s the retail factor, men are notoriously timid about browsing for skincare products in public. That is why male-grooming websites such as Mankind.co.uk, launched in 2001, have proved such a happy hunting ground. At the Beauty and the Brand conference in London last year, Mankind founder Hilary Andrews said: ‘Men want a comfortable, fuss-free method of getting products, and the internet is the obvious choice.’ She added that on the high street, women buy 50% of grooming products for the men in their life, while 98% of the products on Mankind are sold directly to men.
Andrews also confirmed that men were interested in ‘problem solving’ . The most searched-for words on the site are a delightful litany of ‘acne’ , ‘hair loss’ , ‘blackheads’ , ‘oily skin’ and ‘dandruff’ . She added that products backed by scientific data sold better.
The buying of clothes is another area where men are notoriously reluctant to hit the shops. Consumer research conducted by Mintel over the past few years has consistently identified the fact that many men are uninterested in fashion and shopping.
According to its Men’s Outerwear report from January 2007, men over the age of 25 ‘often dislike shopping to such an extent that their partners buy the majority of menswear for them’.
The key to luring men into stores seems to be a comforting retail environment. Forget blaring music, disco balls or floor-to-ceiling mirrors , it is impeccable service and a slight hint of retro eccentricity that will work more effectively.
Think of Paul Smith’s stores, which are dotted with toy cars, tin robots and other ephemera; or Dunhill, whose decor reflects its heritage as the purveyor of accessories to the first motorists . At the latter’s store in London, men can also have a traditional wet shave.