Are men the “next big thing” for marketers? According to an AdWeek article, it would seem so. Does this mean we should throw our women’s market knowledge out the window and shift attention completely toward men?
I’d say not. Instead, the research and experts cited in that piece seem to suggest that what has been true for the women’s market is now true for men as well. Men are still men, but are more frequent and engaged consumers in a wider range of products.
For example, recent studies show that more men than ever are making dinner, doing housework and managing the kids. That sure sounds a lot like my neighborhood. Still, you’d never know it from what brands reflect in their ad campaigns.
As Jack Essig, publisher of Rodale’s Men’s Health magazine put it in the AdWeek piece: he “believes there’s a gender-based blind spot in home brands today that is the inverse of one by car companies a couple decades ago.
‘Ten or 15 years ago, car companies were speaking primarily to men and assuming men were making the majority of car-purchasing decisions, only for research to show that women were really weighing in,’ Essig says. ‘I think the same is true for a lot of home decor and other home brands when it comes to speaking to men. They want their home to reflect their personality as well.’
Essig has it right. As with the marketing to women movement of a decade or so ago, there’s one big misstep to avoid in trying to better reach this gender: swinging the pendulum too far to the masculine extreme. Let that happen, and you’ll be alienating plenty of men who don’t see themselves as quite that macho, and, you may risk turning off current or prospective female customers along the way.
Yet, the reactionary gender pendulum swing is a marketing culture pattern. Brands rushed to “pink” when they first started paying attention to the specifics of how women buy. Now, I fear we may see a rush to “blue” as brands go too far masculine in their mad dash to appeal to “all men everywhere.” Of course, the consuming men we’d like to reach are actually starting to accept/embrace their perhaps more feminine ways of buying, thus making the stereotypically male, linear marketing approach less likely to succeed.
Here’s my point: (Most) men and women use some balance, not either/or, of their male and female brain traits to make decisions. Consumers have many reasons to become more holistic in their purchase processes – and I don’t see that changing in this abundant, 24/7 shopping culture (though the economy may give their decision-making an extra “creative” limitation).
Women already and commonly wind along their purchasing paths using both their linear and their more emotional ways of thinking. This may have evolutionary origins – starting with having to listen for baby cries, while gathering nuts and berries – all the while trying to keep their abode safe from intruders while their men were off hunting. Men, while similarly having the capability to use both sides of their brains, have been more rewarded in society by continually looking through the provider/status filter. But today they no longer need be off “hunting” in order to fulfill their manly missions, and they, like women, can (and may well like to!) engage with the buying process more fully.
Men are starting to think and buy differently because society is allowing them to do so. It makes sense. So, just as with women, marketing must become more relevant to who they are now – not who they were yesterday.
Those of you reading this have long since learned a bit about serving feminine buying traits. So, move forward in confidence as you seek the consumer that walks like a man and buys (more) like a woman!