How to Talk and Sell to Men

Discussion
Sep 29, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


News flash (please hold your groans): Men are different than women.


Consider shopping. Many women enjoy doing it, seeing it as a form of entertainment or a social experience shared with like-minded, well, women. Men, on the other had, said Elizabeth Arden’s CEO Scott Beattie, “tend to not enjoy the same shopping experience as a woman.”


To get them to go shopping in the first place and then engage them in the experience, Mr. Beattie told attendees at the Reuters Retail Summit, “you have to be able to communicate more directly to them.”


Communicating with men has become more of a focus for consumer marketers and retailers, and the result, some say, has been that men’s product sales are on the upswing.


Mr. Beattie’s company is one of those that has increased its emphasis on male consumers. Elizabeth Arden, said Mr. Beattie, currently gets about 10 percent of its overall sales from products designed for and targeted at men. Product sales from brands such as the company’s Paul Sebastian and Geoffrey Beene fragrance lines are growing.


The company also recently signed a deal with International Speedway Corp. to develop a men’s Daytona 500 fragrance line. NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon will serve as the spokesperson for the line that will be rolled out to department stores next spring.


Revlon is another company that is putting more emphasis on marketing to males. It recently launched an ad campaign for its Mitchum deodorant line that Revlon CEO Jack Stahl said is the biggest push it has put behind the brand in 15 years.


The Mitchum campaign with messages such as, “If you’ve never left a game early to beat traffic, you’re a Mitchum man,” and “If you didn’t have anything to do with planning your wedding, you’re a Mitchum man,” follows a common theme in modern advertising of using humor and wry observations to define “guy-ness” and connect personal behaviors with a brand’s identity.


Not all, however, share the enthusiasm about the “growing” market for male products. Nu Skin President Lori Bush, said, “I hear a lot about growth but it’s still a very, very small base. For the long run, guys will be guys, and we’ll let them be.”


Moderator’s Comment: Has the male consumer changed, opening up new opportunities to sell products in categories not usually associated with these shoppers?
How are men different than women and what must retailers do in the way of advertising and in-store merchandising to attract and keep them as shoppers?

George Anderson – Moderator


For those interested in testing their manhood and getting a better sense of how men are being marketed to today, check out the “Man Test” on Mitchum.com.

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17 Comments on "How to Talk and Sell to Men"


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Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 4 months ago

I agree with Janet. There are two factors affecting this: the aging of the (I’m one of them so I can say this) narcissistic baby boomers; and the acceptability among younger men for taking care of themselves. Men care about how they look; they are, increasingly, willing to buy product to improve or maintain their appearance; and as products become available, they will buy them.

They do shop differently, however, and we should not anticipate seeing a line of men getting makeovers at cosmetic counters any time soon. Establishing branded merchandise and explaining its benefits to men in the ever-growing men’s mags, online and on TV will enable them to run into a store and pick up their purchase without having to spend a lot of time browsing for product in-store. Shelf talkers and on-pack information is even more important for this target.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 4 months ago

Another thing marketers and retailers can do to improve the shopping experience for men is to simplify it. Give us directories that show where items are, and lay departments out intuitively. Not many guys I know like to browse for any length of time, and we get frustrated when we can’t find what we want quickly. And, if for some reason you want to keep us in the store longer, give away cookies or sample products or have flat TV’s showing the ball game – we need to have a few distractions while we’re “browsing.”

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Men do shop – not just for grooming products but for all kinds of products. With the average age of marriage for men increasing to 27, there are many young men living on their own having to furnish a place to live, buy groceries, use cleaning products, and choose health and beauty aid products. This is another example of the demassification of the consumer market. There are increasing segments of the population who want to buy what they want, when they want, and where they want. In addition the buying behavior of these segments are distinctive. Retailers and manufacturers who pay attention to these segments can reap huge benefits.

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
15 years 4 months ago

While male shopping habits probably are changing, retailers should not forget that, among married couples, women are significantly more likely to make the purchase decisions in almost all categories than men. We see this in everything from automotive to retail to restaurant buying decisions. I agree with Mark, a significant portion of these products will be purchased by women for men.

Too heavy a focus on communicating to men could turn off the primary decision maker: women.

Gwen Kelly
Guest
Gwen Kelly
15 years 4 months ago

I also am in agreement with the two previous comments. I would also add that the recent launch of the magazine Men’s Vogue illustrates there is an increasing awareness of how men are seeing themselves in their totality. And aside from the health and beauty (grooming) aspect, fashion and image are important factors of how 21st century men today are seeing themselves. Savvy marketers who realize this trend will deliver and benefit from marketing to this growing segment.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 4 months ago
Here’s another tip: men like to be in control. Take grocery shopping and one simple, everyday task: picking a melon. Now I’ve heard many recommended methods for picking out a good melon over the years, and I’ve compared them to what the people who grow them tell you to look for, and there are a lot of silly myths floating around. Maybe women like the mystery and art of picking a melon, but put a little sign on the stack that says to use your thumb to test for a little give at the ends and check where the stem used to be to see if it looks like it popped off or had to be ripped out, and now I’ve got logic and facts to work with. I’ve got some shopping power! This is slightly off topic, but if advertisers think that continuing to portray men as bumbling idiots when it comes to anything domestic helps them sell to women, fine with me. But it sure doesn’t make it more likely I will buy… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
I am with Al on this one. Make it simple. I really don’t know if men’s shopping habits are changing all that much. But as one, I like my shopping experiences to be simple and hassle free. As mentioned in the article on Nordstrom today, I want the items I am looking for to be easy to find, I want help, and I want a little extra treatment on the details. For example, on gift shopping, I’ll choose retailers that help with gift wrapping or boxing easily (not sending you off to a separate department just to get a box). Men also (at least I do) like treats. They like a snack, a drink or coffee. Yet, in many respects, I don’t see these traits all that different from what many women today might expect. To me, they seem to be all about experience. Retailers need to focus much more on the overall experience of making the purchase. When there are so many alternative pressures on both men and women’s time today, the experience is… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

A lot of this is media hype. For “metro-sexual” type products (and I, too, hate the term) it’s big gains, but off very small bases. Media doesn’t get into that. Growth is driven partly by the fact that alternative lifestyles are finally okay now, hallelujah, at least in most places. Once guys start discovering they have gay friends (ohmygod! really?) and seeing the new societal tolerance, their homophobia level goes way down. That in turn gives them permission to at least look at products they were once way too macho to even consider. I have no idea if that is politically incorrect or not, but it’s just a theory of mine. I think it’s a very, very healthy thing, but I don’t see it being mass market. For whatever reason, jewelry, cosmetics and fashion never interested me whatever. (Obviously, to those who know me.) But I’m glad that guys who do have that interest, at least feel less stigma for getting into it. Live your life!

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

It’s no secret, men are visually oriented. Advertising must assume the man is not listening to the message. You get a man’s attention by visual stimulation. We have no idea what women are saying to us. When women speak to us, it all sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking. We watch Kelly Ripa on TV with the sound off. Most men know who she is but I doubt any man can quote something she said. The same goes for advertising. Men remember what they see, but not what they hear.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 4 months ago

I hate the term metrosexual. But it can be useful. I think that marketers are just beginning to tap into the demand for men’s grooming and skin care products. It’s going to be tremendous and not just in the U.S. — but globally.

Supermarkets with the right demographics should start to make these sections a little more prominent in the store. Women will search for these products. At the moment, men have to be hit in the face with them. Make it easy, make it interesting and make it acceptable and sales will follow.

Aside from personal care products, this is also a good time to get men more interested in shopping and cooking.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I suspect that the majority of NASCAR HBA products will be women buying for men, especially if the items are sold via department stores. Elizabeth Arden may have 10% of its sales coming from male products, but it seems likely that the majority of purchasers are women buying for men. The best opportunities for sales expansion of male HBA products come from 2 sources: (1) traditionally male “big brands,” like Gillette and (2) women’s marketers who offer gift products. The major male audience will listen to Gillette not Elizabeth Arden.

Doug Fleener
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
While I do believe that men’s shopping habits are somewhat changing, most of us are “guys” with “guys” shopping habits. Most retailers just don’t “get” us. Oh, they try to sell to us but they almost always miss the mark. A look around almost any mall in America proves that. Our contradictions and basic “guyness” make us hard to reach, but we’re actually easy sales. Our short attention span makes it difficult to communicate to us, but talk in our language and we’re incredible listeners. It may look as though we have little brand loyalty but we’re incredibly loyal to brand experiences. How do I know these things? Easy, I’m a guy. And retailers can maximize their sales and profits by thinking like a guy and creating guy experiences. Not just retailers who sell men’s products, either. Some of the biggest opportunities are for those who sell to the women in a guy’s life. While not all guys are alike, we share a number of similarities and traits. Create retail experiences around these traits and… Read more »
Janet Barker-Evans
Guest
Janet Barker-Evans
15 years 4 months ago

Men shop differently than women, but they do shop. And when it comes to fashion, and what we typically call “health & beauty,” I think we are seeing greater involvement by men in those purchases – particularly in the 18-30 segment. These younger men feel more comfortable, perhaps, than their older counterparts in purchasing specific grooming items, colognes, body sprays, clothing and footwear. I need only look at my nephews and my friends’ children to see the emphasis they place on looking and smelling good. Brand names are also huge to them, as is being on-trend. As they then age up, they will likely continue to be consumers of these goods, but in different ways. I think the entire “metrosexual” phase also showed men that it’s ok to care about how you look. So while they won’t likely be selecting household cleaners anytime soon, they certainly are a high-value target for a wide variety of other products and brands.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

It is so interesting that the best companies have researched men from all generations, and found out what they want, and how to present to this growing and spending sector.

Single men represent a greater share, than married men!! Why do you think P&G got into cosmetics for men and grooming products? Because Baby Boomers are willing to spend to look great, and young!

The X and Y generations are being targeted by the Hot Topic and Metro Park retail shops from clothes, to trinkets, to music, to tattoos.
Sounds like the key is researching your target base and marketing the products and services to them. Hmmmmmmmmmmm

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

This is a real chicken and egg one. Sure, the menfolk are spending more time and money preening themselves and shopping – and probably enjoying the results – but I’m not sure how much they’ve been nudged into it by manufacturers, retailers and marketing and media people. Now that it’s started, it’s probably an unstoppable roll. How best to do it seems a simple matter of continuing to appeal to the boys’ (excuse me, GUYS’) vanity, pride and masculinity. Kind of a duh situation, I’d say. Or, as Doug and Al nearly said, keep it simple stupid.

Stan Houston
Guest
Stan Houston
15 years 4 months ago

I have to agree with Len Lewis: much of what we’ve read over the past few years has been about studies centered on ethnicities and tweens. Males make up 50% of the universe and we do little to sell to them. I’m a white 52 year-old male living in the San Francisco area, father of 3 boys, and I love shopping for me. Hey retailers: wake up!

Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 4 months ago

To add a little twist to the many interesting thoughts expressed earlier, clearly, there is a market opportunity to “Target Males.” Axe from Unilever, is a great example of targeting this segment in very strategic manner. But marketers are soon recognizing the emergence of the übersexual male, whose mindset and preferences do not want replicas of product lines originally targeted to women with a slight shift in focus.

Retailers need to explore powerful ways of making the bond with male customers beyond the stereotypical icons you see in Action movies. Xbox may be targeting Male consumers and gamers in today’s scenario in a very definitive form. Prestige marketers and automotive brands have always looked closer at this segment, but are many other categories losing out on segmenting to males?

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