Sure, the Old Spice Man is still asking, “Ladies, would you like your man to smell like me?” But, increasingly, men are shopping for their own aftershave, clothes, and even household goods–and marketers are beginning to address them as true decision-makers.
“The thing that marketers need to come to terms with is this isn’t 50 years ago when America had very traditional roles,” said Paul Jacobs, VP and general manager of Jacobs Media, a radio consulting firm, in an interview with CMO.com. “Advertisers and marketers who continue to build their businesses with the assumption that women make all the decisions. . .are limiting themselves to a degree that they’re going to get picked apart.”
Even as many marketers and retailers continue to refer to the consumer as “she,” they have realized men are a bigger factor in household-buying decisions and have begun more efforts to reach out to that demographic.
For example, within weeks of each other this summer, online “flash sale” retailer Gilt Groupe, J.C. Penney, and Gap all launched Web sites selling menswear. Gilt, which had already launched Gilt Man in the spring, expanded beyond the limited-time deal format with Park & Bond, an upscale online menswear boutique. Meanwhile, J.C. Penney partnered with Esquire Magazine to launch Clad, another upscale online apparel store aimed at men ages 25 to 54. Days later, Gap announced it had added menswear to Piperlime, the site it opened five years ago as an online shoe store and later expanded to apparel.
“I doubt you’ll ever see many guys going out and buying a new pair of shoes to cheer themselves up after their team loses in the Final Four. But men are increasingly taking charge of their own wardrobe decisions,” John Auerbach, president of Park & Bond, told CMO.com.
A poll by Jacobs Media showed that while men predictably led women in being decision-makers for auto and home-repair purchases, they are also making decisions in areas where women were believed to be the sole authority. When it came to buying their clothing, for example, 80 percent of men said they choose their own, and 58 percent were decision-makers when choosing health care providers. (The percentages were much higher when men living alone were singled out, as you would expect.)
And men are heavy users of coupons and loyalty cards, according to Jacobs’ Marketing to Men study. The poll of 13,000 consumers found 68.5 percent of men use coupons frequently or occasionally, and 68 percent have had loyalty cards of one kind or another, noted Jacobs.
“Two-thirds of men have a grocery store loyalty card. When’s the last time you heard a grocery store ad on sports radio?” he said.
Starting From Scratch
But any effort aimed at men has to be built from the ground up, experts said: Men don’t shop like women, don’t consume media like women, and can’t be communicated to like women.
Men don’t window shop, retailers agree; they go to a store to pick up what they need and leave, so they’re not as reachable via daily deal sites or recommendation engines, unlike women.
“It’s so different it’s stunning,” said Jim Thomas, CEO of shopping assistant Web site Itemize and a veteran data mining professional. Most research data shows that, except for indulgences like electronics, men are so needs-focused when shopping that all they want is to find what they want quickly and check out.
“You have to make it less about browsing and serendipity and make it more about navigating efficiently,” he told CMO.com. “It’s about building brand awareness and trying to make it possible that at the moment of need the customer comes to you.”
Clad’s media plan for the launch is a mix of online display advertising, heavy on paid search because research found search engines are the place where men most often begin their shopping, said Amber Benson, VP of marketing at Clad, in an interview with CMO.com.
“Men are like lasers–they know exactly what they want,” she said. “Women will browse; men are not wired to browse.”
And, indeed, marketers need to build a different media plan to reach men, experts said.
Men are heavier radio listeners and Internet shoppers and less likely than women to be magazine readers. According to data from market researcher Gfk MRI, 79.4 percent of men consider themselves magazine readers, compared to 87 percent of women; and 83.6 percent of men are radio users, compared to 80.7 percent of women.
Clad partnered with Esquire because “nobody understands the American man like Esquire,” said Benson, but the bulk of its marketing efforts are online. The launch campaign included a polybagged insert in the August issue with a special offer, but also a sweepstakes on Clad’s Facebook page and an online video series called "Style Tips from a Beautiful Woman" done in partnership with Esquire.
The mobile chromosome.
Not only are men easier to reach online, but the Internet has also lowered the risks of entry for retailers, experts said. It’s no coincidence that many of the new men’s apparel entrants–such as Piperlime, Park & Bond, and Clad–are online-only. And that is accelerating as smartphone penetration and mobile shopping grow, with men being heavier users of both.
A study from market research firm Motista found men and women follow brands on social media networks at about the same 10 percent rate, but men were twice as likely as women to do a live chat on a retailer’s Web site and to make purchases via mobile devices.
“Men are totally driving mobile and app usage and development, whereas women are more likely to sit and surf the Internet,” Benson said.
But before they race after those male shoppers, marketers and retailers need to heed one big caveat: Watch the message. Advertisers need to ensure their pitches don’t alienate men with “dude” and “bro” ads that make men look stupid–which seems to be common these days, experts said.
“Yes, there is renewed interest in talking to men, and there is some sort of crisis among marketers about how to talk to men. The default is to basically advertise to this sort of adult child male. . .who is dimwitted,” said Chip Walker, executive VP, director of brand planning at Y&R.
The result is advertisers are turning off the very men they want to reach, Walker told CMO.com. “They don’t like it,” he said. “They say, ‘If you put a girl in ad like that, you’d have a riot in your hands.’”
Thomas said he recently came across a block of hose “dudes-bros commercials” during a football game. “I was scratching my head, thinking, ‘This is embarrassing,’” he said.
Advertisers can’t look at men as a monolithic batch of clueless “dudes” and “bros,” experts agreed. “Young men are abandoning traditional advertising,” Walker said. “Maybe they think traditional advertising has abandoned them.”
Walker said he was so turned off by some of the advertising he has seen aimed at men that he teamed with Gfk MRI to segment the male demographic. He found six defined segments–including, yes, “big kids”–but also socially conscious, traditional, and creative types, as well as textbook alpha males.
And one sweet spot he found was what he called Indie Guy: an educated, successful, entrepreneurial man who is the Millennial generation’s aspirational model.
Some advertisers have begun speaking to this model, as the “Echo Boomers” of Generation Y come of age and hit their prime spending years. Walker noted he’s working with a major packaged goods advertiser he couldn’t name to develop a global media property to reach young men.
The men of Gen Y are not only prime targets for clothes and other personal items, but they will probably be the first males to see advertising for diapers and laundry soap aimed at them.
“For younger men, the gender war is over, and women won,” Walker said. “As the Gen Y’s move into childbearing years, there’s a lot more equality in parenting roles and men are doing a lot more of the grocery shopping. . .I think the Gen Y dad is going to be a major target of food companies and anything to do with child care.”
But that will require learning to segment and target this market, and looking beyond the dudes and bros to see real men.
“I think we’re moving into an area where we need to blow up stereotypes of about what they are,” Walker said. “It’s kind of an exciting time.”