Don't Market To Guys, Entertain Them

Men want to be entertained, no surprise there. So it makes perfect sense that brands would try to weave their message into articles, videos, games, shows, and films that men find entertaining. While the notion of branded content isn’t new, marketers have become increasingly more creative in their tactics. Last month’s Cannes Lions festival even added a “Branded Content & Entertainment” category to reflect the trend.

Engaging content beyond the standard pre-roll or banner ad can help brands move the needle in terms of consumer awareness, image, and sales. Yet many advertisers are hesitant to step outside their comfort zone and take on the role of content producer. For those looking to reach guys, they’re missing a huge opportunity.

No Need To Fool A Fool

These days, men -- as well as women, tweens, and domestic animals for that matter -- are savvy enough to know when we’re on the receiving end of an advertisement. But we don’t necessarily mind. Men are quite happy for marketers to throw their brands in our faces, so long as we’re entertained along the way. 



Old Spice proved that point with its clever “Old Spice Guy” campaign that inspired men (and women) to forward videos, tweet questions to a spokesman draped in a towel, and speak in a deep baritone for no particular reason. The result: Body wash sales went up more than 100%, and Old Spice became hip in a heartbeat. 

Audience First, Product Second

Brands can also get people talking even when the products are presented more subtly. “The Hire,” BMW’s series of eight short films from 2001, is considered a benchmark case study. Starring Clive Owen and directed by heavies such as Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie, the films cost $25 million collectively and stand on their own instead of feeling like an extended commercial. More than 45 million people viewed “The Hire,” which helped bump BMW’s sales by 17% in 2002.

So how does this style of branded content differ from straight-up advertising? As Avi Savar, the category’s jury president at Cannes Lions, explained, the key is to start with a story and then figure out how to connect that story to the product. 

Likewise, Schick’s recent “Clean Break” reality series about three guys escaping their daily rut doesn’t call out the brand within the episodes. Time will tell whether Schick sells more razors as a result, but clearly the company is attempting to create content that engages its target audience. The story comes first.

Knock Knock

I said it up top, but it’s worth repeating. Guys want to be entertained. And we especially want to laugh. When K-Swiss enlisted the HBO character Kenny Powers to be its spokesman (and eventual faux-CEO) in a series of videos, there was nothing subtle about how it promoted its Tubes shoe line in virtually every frame. But the videos were hilarious, and the ensuing buzz recalibrated the company’s image and resulted in a sales uptick in 2011. Unfortunately, K-Swiss’ financial woes run deep and its stock has languished since the campaign, but that’s a topic for another post. 

Creating quality content that resonates with consumers is not an easy task. If it were, TV shows would never get canceled and every film would have a $50 million opening weekend. But marketers have as much chance as anyone to produce entertainment that will get guys’ attention, especially since they supposedly know their audience inside and out.  

Hopefully, more brands will put on a content producer’s hat, or work closely with agencies and publishers like that can provide the creative juices. Marketers are ultimately judged on how well they drive revenue, but making guys laugh, feel, and think will certainly help their cause.

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