Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from WayfinD, a quarterly e-magazine filled with insights, trends and predictions from the retail and foodservice experts at WD Partners.
It's the conventional wisdom touted daily via a thousand PowerPoint slides in a thousand new business and campaign pitches: Women drive 80 percent of consumer purchases.
And it's simply not true anymore.
Yet dozens of studies have searched in vain for the equivalent rethink of gender stereotypes in advertising. In a recent meta-analysis of 64 advertising content studies, sexist stereotypes dominate: Women are three times more likely than men to be depicted as a product user vs. an authority figure; four times more likely to be shown in a dependent role; and 3.5 times more likely to be in a domestic environment, rather than a work environment.
Brands that ignore demographic changes and evolving social norms never evolve enough to capture the loyalty of the next generation. The outright and persistent neglect of the male demo — especially Millennial males and the fast-growing Hispanic target market — is bad marketing strategy.
Over the last six months, this truth was put into sharp relief as I talked to dozens of men across America, from the Midwest to the West Coast, across all generations — Millennial, Generation X and Boomer alike. I found that younger men increasingly find and shape their identity through shopping. Consider that, compared to Boomer men, Millennial males increasingly self-identify as fashionable and trendy — 38 percent of Millennial men compared to 16 percent of Boomer men, according to WD Partner's resulting study, The Continuum Of Cool. Twice as many Millennial men say they are willing to pay more for brands that reflect their personal style — or 26 percent of Millennials compared to 13 percent of Boomer men.
Brands ignoring young men is a little ironic, considering the make-up of ad agency creative departments. According to one recent academic study, the creative departments' ratio is still 2.3 men to every 1 woman. Yet once we get out of the realms of consumer electronics and pick-up trucks, the men in that world (or the brand directors they work for) seem to pitch their messaging to women.
In an increasingly egalitarian consumer culture, in which gender roles are less rigid, more fluid and constantly evolving, brands must work harder to understand how this impacts emerging demographic groups. Yes, some categories — the aforementioned consumer electronics — need to pay more attention to women. But for a large number of brands, from fashion to retail to packaged goods, it's time to start paying attention to men. Perhaps, if more brands do, the lag in what's happening in the real world — 50/50 parenting, stay-at-home dads, husbands that make the grocery lists and do the shopping — will start to be accurately and authentically represented in the marketplace and the image of women in advertising will get out of the '50s and into the real world.
How does the opportunity for retailers to reach Millennial males compare to their Boomer fathers?