Resort Spa Uncovers Cultural Anthropology to Cultivate Male Clients

Jun 08, 2005

By Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute


Twenty nine percent of spa users are men, according to the latest estimates compiled by the International Spa Association based out of Lexington, Ky. To a luxury hotel property,
these facilities can generate lucrative profits if marketed right. So, at a time when behavioral targeting is becoming an important marketing buzzword (revived by the resurgence
of online marketers), a better grasp of the male/female dynamics within a spa’s customer base would seem opportune. This type of knowledge can drive customer acquisition and brand
experience that breaks the cookie cutter mold for a category.

Tanya Mohn writes in a New York Times piece of May 31st that, “Women go to spas to be fussed over for hours on end, with the goal of a healthier tone to their skin. Men go with the hope of a quick fix for muscle pain. The nomenclature they use to describe their treatments is revealing, with women using phrases like total surrender and men likening the visits to car tune-ups.”

A queen among such facilities, the Fairmont Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. wanted to target men in addition to its female clientele and hired a cultural anthropologist who uncovered intrinsic differences in the way men and women approached a spa. Research led them to:

  • Use darker woods and colors to create a club-like ambiance so men wouldn’t feel they were entering female territory
  • Install televisions in locker rooms (to reduce awkwardness felt by males in spa wear)
  • Develop customized packages, including “Keep Your Shorts On” and “Golf Performance Treatment”
  • Reposition the “European Facial,” as translated for men into “Barber Facial”

Moderator’s Comment: Which other categories or brands have been able to draw from qualitative consumer insight, particularly with regard to gender, to
create a unique user or product experience?

Home Depot’s “Do-it-Herself Clinics” come to mind when looking at other categories in retail that have broken out of the stereotypical positioning based
on the user profile.

Rupa Ranganathan – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Resort Spa Uncovers Cultural Anthropology to Cultivate Male Clients"

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Rick Moss
15 years 8 months ago

There’s been a lot of press coverage lately about efforts to get women more involved in golf…specifically, women in business. A Christian Science Monitor article of June 6 describes the scene at a golf clinic conducted by GolfingWomen in East Hampton, N.Y. [click to read]. Attending were 32 women from Harvard Business School. Professional women are apparently finally fed up with being excluded from this closely-guarded network-building tradition. You can just imagine the related products and services that will spring up to quickly take advantage of this expanding demographic. It will be interesting to see how it changes golf fashions, equipment and country club services. The ripple effect should be fascinating.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 8 months ago

The names of the retailers escape me at the moment, but there are efforts being made by department stores both in the US and abroad, to create male-oriented experiences for the spouses and significant others of female shoppers. Video, male targeted magazines and interactive experiences are replacing the lone “guy” chair outside of dressing rooms.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago

Cellphone advertising is a microcosm of perceived sexual differences in communication needs. (That’s “sex” instead of “gender,” which has more to do with the grammatical classification of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives.)

You’ll notice that cellphone ads aimed at women feature relationships and relationship-building with lots of family scenarios. Ads aimed at males feature business-related scenarios which demand timely information flow.

Al McClain
Al McClain
15 years 8 months ago

There should be an opportunity for businesses that cater generally to males to draw more female heads of household…car repair and service, for example. Fix up the dismal concrete “waiting rooms” and make them actually inviting and non-threatening. Might not be a bad idea to fix up waiting areas to draw more male shoppers as well. C-stores might also want to take a look at their environment as one of the biggest reasons they don’t draw more women as customers.

James Tenser
15 years 8 months ago

So spas have discovered a gender-driven difference of opinion regarding “personal indulgence” versus “maintain the equipment.” As a guy, I’m firmly in the “maintain the equipment” camp. It’s all I can do to sit still for a haircut – forget about mudpacks or pedicures.

Providing those services in a mahogany-paneled room won’t make them any more appealing to me. I don’t need to see sports on TV above the lockers to feel comfortable, but I enjoy the “clubby” environment of say, Downtown Athletic Club more than I do the “beauty spa” environment of Elizabeth Arden.

Using cultural anthropologists to study how the genders approach the spa experience seems intelligent on its face. Since many resort spas seem to have been conceived with women as their target customers, men have frequently been left out on the putting green, so to speak.


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