When it comes to capturing the attention and loyalty of younger men, the typical "push an ad to them and hope they pay attention" model no longer cuts it. Younger men want more.
In a recent survey, Forrester asked more than 5,000 consumers about their satisfaction with 14 types of firms. It turns out, Gen X and Gen Y males were least likely to say they enjoy doing business with firms in 13 of the categories. They were lukewarm to discount stores, auto insurers, cable TV providers, credit card issuers and pharmacies.
To resonate with the young male audience, "don't just project the personality, assume the personality and let that be the connection," says Ian Schafer, founder and CEO of entertainment marketing and promotions company Deep Focus. A good example, he says, is Red Bull. Not only do they sponsor extremesports, "they've actually got a half-pipe in their lobby."
The Reach Group consultancy calls young males part of the "Connected Generation." They maintain a world view that encompasses five values: transparency, personal expression, experience, reinvention and connection. "This group wants a peer-like interaction ... a dialogue," says president Cheri Hanson. "They want to tell you what's wrong, what's right, and how to make things better." Overall, she says, "they want to be included in the loop."
In addition, "they like their information blended with entertainment and will get frustrated if you overpromise and underdeliver." They particularly like narrative; Hanson points to the "I'm a Mac and I'm a pc" campaign as good examples that work for men under 40.
"The first thing you've got to do as a brand is recognize that you're vulnerable and assess your transparency," says Schafer. "The term I use is 'brand nudity': Be comfortable with people seeing you naked. If you're not, you're going to have to get comfortable. Fix what's broken if you're going to have a dialogue with these young men."
And, he cautions, don't take yourself too seriously. "Making fun of the fact that you're vulnerable is a good way to go. Young men appreciate humor ... especially self-deprecating humor."
Adds Holly Moore, a partner at Yankelovich monitor Consulting Group, "This generation is not taken in by exaggeration and hype." The "hapless male," or "dad as dope" depiction, needs to be reworked, and advertisers have to do a better job of connecting features with lifestyle benefits.
When targeting the Connected Generation, Reach says marketers should focus on four cravings: Raise my pulse; shine the spotlight (personalize the offering); give me brand candy (ensure that your design and production values are seamless, and the design is fun and easy); and bring it to life (brand theater).
Forrester's research shows that the existing relationship model is not working on younger men. Create a relevant, engaging and entertaining brand promise and you may just capture that elusive male for life.