To Attract Men, Be Attractive to Men

If you believe what you read, you surely think men are facing a “crisis in masculinity,” and that, in 50 years, we really will “all be chicks.” I don’t buy it. Instead, the definition of masculinity in contemporary American society is simply evolving (and, rest assured, will stay tied to more traditionally masculine norms than in many parts of the world).

Still, something in the recent post from Break Media’s Andrew Budkofsky resonated. He addressed a study by his company, from which emerged themes about men turning regular life events into opportunities for male bonding, man time and exercising their masculinity. He cited “mansgiving,” a research participant’s annual guys’ get-together that included a “Die Hard”movie marathon and eating steak with their hands. 



This idea is similar to mancations, a concept entrenched in the lexicon (complete with a Wikipedia page, an Urban Dictionary listing, and a so-titled 2012 feature film starring Joey Fatone).

An important truth is evident in these things. When spending significant amounts of time engaged in things not exactly macho, men respond to experiences that recognize and cater to them as guys.

So, what is the practical application of this for brands? 

It’s important to think about, because, as has been discussed in this column, men today are more engaged consumers who exercise purchasing power not just in male-centric categories but in some pretty surprising places. 

Let’s look at brands creating products and experiences for men across a number of categories.

  • Shopping. A host of retailers has opened stores that cater solely to male customers, including Club Monaco, Hermès and Ralph Lauren. Brands like Coach and J. Crew have found tremendous success in their new men’s concepts. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue have remodeled their men’s floors, and Urban Outfitters created a separate catalog for men. Even Christian Louboutin, known for the brand’s red-soled stilettos, opened a store for men in August, the first of three men’s-only stores expected to help grow men’s shoes from 5 to 20% of the business.

Why the investment? Quite simply, these retailers recognize men buy more when they feel are partaking in an experience intended just for them.

  • Grooming. From the days of the old-school barbershop, this category has lent itself to distinct male/female offerings. But, for a while, the hallmark of the new-era barbershop was “babes-and-big-screens”; today, you see grown-up versions of the guys’ grooming place -- places where a guy can feel good about cutting a cut (or a massage or facial). Whether Los Angeles’ Baxter Finley or Texas’ The Boardroom, these concepts appeal to the important male value of success, making you feel you’ve arrived instead of like a horny college kid.
  • Eating. I recently discovered Mantry, the Birchbox of gourmet packaged foods designed specifically for men. The once-monthly shipments are comprised of selections that appeal to a guy’s sense of adventure and are interesting enough to make a statement about the man who serves them, keying in on guys’ desire for status.

  • Deodorizing. Air fresheners are one category that, despite male usage, has done little to appeal to men. Guys who are not fans of bathrooms that smell like flowers can now choose Archer for Men. In scents like Hunting Lodge and European Sports Car with very man-friendly packaging, it’s priced at $12.50, about five times a grocery store air freshener.

  • Houseworking.Philip’s “Man Iron” features dark colors and a sleek spaceship design. Accompanied by a cheeky YouTube video that teaches guys about ironing, this iron earned good press for the brand and presumably makes men feel better about their “unmanly” task. The iron joins other Philips “man” products including a hand mixer that looks like a pneumatic drill. 

Across all these examples, you see a few commonalities: a clearly differentiated offering, a buying experience (whether real or virtual) that speaks to men, and distinctive design.

And the idea of designing for men extends beyond retail environments and physical products. Think about your secondary storefront, your website. 

Men prefer to use websites that employs dark colors, straight lines, clean design and typography that is prominent and regular. They also prefer sites with motion. Some of these preferences are even rooted in genetic differences like visual-spatial abilities and the ability to perceive color. All this matters because research indicates preferences in site design translate into real dollars.

And, for marketers, that’s what’s it really all about.

Not only is staging a uniquely male experience likely to make your brand more highly regarded by men, it’s an opportunity to have men transact with you more often, and at a higher average ticket. And, it can even give you a reason to charge a premium. 

Now, excuse me, I need to order that $12.50 bottle of air freshener.

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