The article from which the student’s questions are drawn – “Dude, Pass the Exfoliator: Marketers Find What Makes Men Buy Eye Cream” (Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2012) – discusses the transformation underway in the market for male-oriented grooming products, for example, facial moisturizers tailored to mens’ unique needs (“Male skin-care formulas tend to be lighter and absorb faster than women’s, because men’s skin is oilier”). Retailers and marketers have identified a growth in the demand for men’s grooming products that extends beyond the gay male community into the mainstream heterosexual male world. Naturally, these retailers want to exploit this new, and potentially lucrative (although, not as lucrative as for women: (“If we were to price [men’s grooming goods] like a womans . . .most of our customers probably would not buy it,” Mr. Sosnicks says.”)
Considering demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral categories or segmentations, one would have to conclude that the ideal market for men’s grooming goods includes slightly affluent college students looking to impress their female counterparts and, more importantly in terms of financial well-being and a more vested professional and personal interest in appearing successful, up-worldly mobile, well-educated white collar men. In short, college students and college-educated professionals are the primary market for all of these segmentations. These categories of male largely overlap across the four categories of market segmentation, given their lifestyles (professional meetings with female executives; hanging out at upscale bars; taking dates to the finer dining establishments and cultural events, and so on) and social and academic backgrounds. This the primary market for male grooming products. Marketing male grooming goods, therefore, highlights each aspect of this lifestyle: young, attractive, professionally-appearing studs playing sports (with nary a hair out of place), interacting with beautiful women in bars, walking along the beach, either alone or with an equally attractive female companion, and so on.
From a geographic perspective, most of the advertising budget for male grooming products would, consequently, be directed towards large urban areas, like New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and others, where large concentrations of highly-educated white-collar professionals are found. Some grooming products, mostly those used in routine everyday tasks like shaving, are oriented towards blue-collar men, especially well-built, handsome construction workers, farmers, firefighters, and other “manly” jobs, but these products are much more limited in their application and in the demographic likely to walk into a store and seek such products out.
I continue to contend that the distinctions between psychographic and behavioral is minimal. Psychographics speaks to values, activities, interests, statements, and more, most of which overlaps considerably with behavioral characteristics. Distinctions among promoters, controllers, supporters, and analyzers are only marginally relative to a discussion of male grooming practices. Certainly, the self-motivated forward-looking controlling type and the high-energy, goal-oriented promoter share common psychological characteristics that may translate to a targeted consumer base that differs from the more passive, conscientious and deliberative supporters and analyzers, but, for marketing purposes, the distinctions may blur.
Below is a link to a series of images produced by Chanel in support of its male-oriented cologne. As one examines the collage of posed-photographs, as well as the accompanying photographs used by other manufacturers and distributors of male grooming goods, many men are depicted shaving, as that is the most obvious application for male grooming items, with a smiling or thoughtful, but always confident facial expression. Notable male celebrities are sprinkled among the collage, including Justin Timberland, Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper, all representing the male ideal of virulence, masculinity, success and confidence.
Men’s grooming products, at least with the transition to more of a market for male grooming goods, are marketed, including their display in retail stores, differently than for women. Retailers and marketers know that men will not walk into predominately female cosmetics departments and shop for male grooming items. That is why, as the enclosed Wall Street Journal article notes, retailers are responding this growing market by setting up special sections devoted to male-oriented good. As the article points out, “Nordstrom recently moved the men’s grooming counter inside the men’s furnishings area. . .[while] Drugstore chains such as CVS and Duane Reade have tested male-dedicated sections.” Many men are a little sensitive to entering women’s cosmetics departments, which are totally staffed by women and most of the products in which are marketed to women, in their search for male-oriented products, like skin cream. It can be just a tad awkward. Setting up a separate section ornamented with male-oriented decorations and posters with themes like handsome stud playing touch football or preparing to climb into a fighter jet simply appeals to the male of the species more than images of women applying lipstick and eyeliner.
Price, as the article also pointed out, is another distinction between the genders. Except for the most affluent, most men will not spend as much on personal grooming as women. Consequently, retailers know they have to sell male grooming items for much less than a similar item would sale for women. Men want masculine imagery, and they don’t want to pay a lot for skin cream or cologne, unless they look like the wealthy stud in the picture on the counter who doesn’t work, scores with top babes, and always looks great.
At the heart of the distinctions between the genders is, of course, the far greater emphasis women have culturally had to place on personal grooming. Women spend much of their morning undertaking with near-military precision a process involving lip gloss, rouge, eyeliner, and all the stuff that goes into it. And don’t get me started on eyebrow tweezing. Men, in contrast, are simpler and have succeeded in keeping the highly-biased cultural imperative for looking proper leaning heavily on the side of women. Other than a close shave, and maybe a little hair gel and/or aftershave lotion, that’s pretty much it. That’s why, for many decades, advertising oriented towards men focused on razor blades and electric shavers, after-shave lotion, some hair tonics or gels, and definitely cigarettes. In short, cultural, personal and psychological influences on male consumer behavior are a direct outgrowth of the male of the species’ proclivity for not being terribly concerned with most grooming issues. Hunters and gatherers needed good work boots, not a lip gloss to go with our bison-skin overall. Finally, the centuries old cultural biases against women – manifested most prominently in the denial of the right to vote until the early 20th Century – and certain prescribed formulas women were expected to follow, including assuming the role of permissive partner and home-keeper, all placed a certain onus on women to fit the mold established by men. The men, though, get enjoy the beach, playing sports, partying, picking up women in bars, and a handful of other common themes intended to attract male consumers. As many have pointed out over the years, June Cleaver performed housework in a nice dress with her hair made-up and dangling earrings and high heels, while Ward walked around in his work pants and a button-down shirt.
One potential marketing idea with regard to male consumers is to make the advertisements more realistic. Most of us don’t work as professional actors and models, and don’t look like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Marketing to the overwhelming percentage of men who are just ordinary guys working mundane jobs all week and hoping for little more than to watch a couple of football games might benefit from minimizing the utopian imagery currently, and historically, used in favor of appealing to more realistic examples of humanity. That doesn’t have to mean the morbidly obese guy walking out of Dairy Queen; it could involve, however, the average construction worker, or even waiter, who want to look good when off the job (the waiter, actually, wants to look good on the job as well as off it). In other words, appeal to real people using real people. The hair-care line of products Just for Men does this fairly well, as Dial and Dove, the latter having been particularly adept at adapting its business line to the average male consumer.
Marketers have employed almost every tactic imaginable to attract male customers. Invariably, those tactics appeal to the sense of rugged individualism many of us envision for ourselves, and to the aforementioned upwardly mobile, well-groomed businessman. Professional athletes are used to promote male grooming goods, like shampoos and aftershaves, and variations of the old “Marlboro Man” image continues to be adapted for advertising campaigns. What more could be done is hard to say. The most important contribution or step that can be taken is the one the article indicates some stores are already applying – segregating men’s grooming items well away from those for women, and placing them in a setting that absolutely reeks of testosterone.