Men And Emotion: What Do We Know?
There has been much discussion of emotions in advertising. The advertising and market research industries have come a long way in gaining a better, more scientific, and more measurable understanding of emotion. Neuroscience has been instrumental to this effort. There is now a basic understanding that asking people to describe their emotions and how they feel about an ad or a brand may yield a scatter plot of results that provide no direction to the brand. Still, it’s critical to talk to your consumer, to hear their voice. When more is needed, neuroscience can provide the missing insights and direction for the brand. So what do we know at this point about men’s emotions when it comes to advertising? Here’s a few trends plus some neurological facts about the male brain.
Men are neurologically better at reading other men’s emotions than they are at reading women’s emotions. This is a recent finding in neuroscience, and I expect more research will refine what this study means. So when you are trying to appeal to men, remember this finding and look for ways to use men to express emotions. You can read about this recent finding here.
Men like emotion just as much as women. But the emotion has to be relevant. There is endless discussion in advertising about the need to generate an emotional response. This often gets taken to the extreme, with funny ads that get a laugh or have a fun surprise, but have absolutely nothing to do with the product. The industry spends a lot of time creating ads that are emotionally compelling but utterly irrelevant. There are positive signs that this is changing, and the trend towards making conceptually relevant ads is growing. For an excellent treatment of this topic, read Decoded by Phil Barden.
Men are spending more time taking care of the kids and the home. This is a huge opportunity to explore new emotional ground that appeals to men. Especially with millennials, it’s now much less taboo to show men taking a central role in the care of the kids and the home. You don't have to just show them at soccer games anymore. Forty percent of men are now the primary grocery shopper in the household, 44% of men say they equally share in housecleaning, and a whopping 86% of men agree being a man equals doing what is necessary to keep the household running. Check out this commercial for Tide for how men are increasingly portrayed in ads about home chores.
Men still want to win and be seen winning. This will never go away. What is changing is how women are portrayed in these male competition scenarios. Yesterday, women were objectified. Today, they are presented as equals (well, much of the time). Blatantly putting down women will no longer elevate your brand in the mind of the male audience. Ads that do this are gradually disappearing.
For more information on how the male brain responds in general, I highly recommend Dr. Louann Brizendine’s excellent book, The Male Brain. Written for the layperson, it’s the best overall summary of the male brain on the market.