For the past century, men have been a marketing afterthought. The old mantra of “he makes, she buys,” has made women the automatic target of countless campaigns, regardless of the brand or service being offered. This is a big miss if you look at the important role that men play in today’s household tasks, decision-making and routine shopping.
The male shopper has evolved with changing societal roles and perceptions. “Metrosexuals” made their entrance into the traditionally female retail space with an increased interest in personal care and grooming. This brought men into the marketer’s consciousness, but also built a narrow and inaccurate picture of male shoppers that lingered for more than a decade. Then came the backlash of the “retrosexual,” who shunned his feminine side and would never be caught wearing pink.
Today’s younger men — those in their 20s and 30s — are more likely to have been raised by single moms and many do not consider it “un-manly” to buy a vacuum cleaner or cleaning supplies. Growing up in female-run households, these men may also shop more like their sisters than their fathers and grandfathers.
A recent Yahoo! study finds that about six in 10 fathers consider themselves to be the primary household decision-maker in packaged goods, health, pet and clothing purchases. It doesn’t stop at the household trip: Men are spending more time on their own personal needs. Eighty-four percent of men said they purchased their own clothes (up from 65 percent in 2001), as reported by BusinessWeek.
Nearly one in three principal household shoppers are men, up from 14 percent two decades ago, according to Neilsen. Statistics from Black Friday, Back-to-School, and Winter Holidays consistently show men spending more than women on big-ticket items.
Men are living alone longer, shopping more — and for a wider variety of items. Smart marketers are realizing this and know that they will not become the biggest and the best unless they win with men.
Men and Women Shop Differently
Since the overwhelming majority of marketer focus has been on female shoppers, it’s important to understand how male shoppers are different. Male shoppers tend to take a functional approach to shopping, navigating on autopilot and not stopping to explore. They’re less likely to be excited and inspired and more likely to be bored (see chart one).
Another difference between men and women is their definitions of a “good” shopping trip. According to a Wharton study, a good shopping trip for women is based on the experience itself — from the environment to her shopping companions. For men, it is all about the convenience — the product location and display, how fast they can complete a purchase, and how quickly they can move on to the next task.
Our own research also notes that men are less affected by the recession than women when it comes to spending patterns and behaviors. Male shoppers are more likely than women to claim they have continued to buy the brands they like no matter what, and are less likely to trade down to less expensive brands.
Since men were more affected by job loss because of the recession, many are assuming stay-at-home duties such as changing diapers, doing laundry and preparing meals. Marketers have the opportunity to empathize with these men and their new role, empowering them to be successful without sacrificing their masculine qualities. The Tide Stain Brain app, for example, simplifies the process of finding the right laundry product for a specific stain. This idea works for moms and dads alike by facilitating easy shopping, and it works well with men’s problem-solving shopping style.
Developing effective campaigns for this group is more challenging than ever. Between changing spending habits due to the recession and the ever-evolving male shopping role, marketers must think beyond conventional wisdom to succeed.
First, we need to refine our understanding of who the male shopper is. The media have traditionally labeled men with six stereotypes — the buffoon, the joker, the action hero, the strong, silent type, the big-shot and the jock (see sidebar). As marketers, we need to replace these outdated profiles with more sophisticated models based on true insight into how men think and shop.
Second, we need to build shopper-marketing programs that meet the unique needs of male shoppers. Men aren’t as swayed by sales and coupons; they are more concerned with value in terms of the product’s use as opposed to value in terms of its price.
If they have a pleasant in-store experience, they want to be able to add the product to their cart right then and there. They are more willing than women to spend more money on a brand that they like and are more likely to continue to buy that brand no matter what (see chart two).
For example, H-E-B targeted male shoppers with its Men’s Zone, a male-centric health and personal care in-store destination. A variety of products is centralized in a single section, allowing for fast fill-in purchases, showcasing a depth of male-specific variety, and minimizing the time investment for new product exploration. The launch of Gillette Fusion Proglide razor included a shelf blade that showcased the upgraded razor in a rotating 3-D display, intersecting male shoppers with a quickly understood benefit and reason to trade-up their intended refill purchase.
As you plan your male-shopper strategy, here are some questions to ask:
How does your male target pre-plan his shopping trips? Trip planning may be minimal since male shoppers are often motivated to make a trip based on an immediate need instead of planning for longer-term stock-up needs.
What are the points-of-contact in the male path-to-purchase? A sample delivered in the mail could intersect him with a product experience that proves the brand’s benefit.
How comfortable are male shoppers in each of the retail channels? Smaller, more convenient retail formats, like drug and convenience channels, align with the male shopper’s tendency to make quick, item-seeking trips.
How should brands design packaging to address males? Brands can focus on key benefits with imagery or icons to quickly telegraph reasons to buy.
If we give the complexities of the male shopper the same importance as the female shopper, we are very likely to build a brand enthusiast for life.