When it comes to household chores, the lines of division between men and women are now more blurred, giving FMCG brands a real opportunity to target a younger male audience.
The ’modern man’ is not a myth, according to a new report seen exclusively by Marketing Week.
As part of its wide-ranging Trendsetters study, research company Mintel has identified that a new generation of young men is taking on more responsibility for home-making. Those aged 25-34 who are living with a partner are more likely to be the main shopper and do more household chores than older men.
Although they still appear less confident buying products for cleaning than for cooking purposes, Richard Cope, principal trends analyst at Mintel, says retailers and manufacturers of household brands have an opportunity to exploit this burgeoning domesticity among men.
He says: “There is a long-held assumption that anybody doing the shopping for groceries or household products is going to be a woman. But men are taking a more active role in the household shopping, which has huge implications in terms of the marketing of products.”
Across all age groups, 23% of men in a household of two or more people say they always shop for cleaning products themselves, compared with 32% who say they do the food shopping. Among men aged 25 to 34, the figures are 32% and 44% respectively.
Though men in the younger age category are not sharing the load of the family shopping bags equally with women, the figures are noticeably higher than for other age groups, indicating that marketers would do well to consider this audience when developing products and campaigns.
The report also notes that there is no reason why the trend should not continue as these men grow older. Mintel points out that growth in the market for male skincare products also began with an increase in use by 25- to 34-year olds.
Cope comments: “There is a natural progression towards equality, and you could argue the 25- to 34-year-old generation has greater respect for women and they think these are roles that should be shared. But there are a lot of practicalities involved as well. They may be working at home while their wives may not be.”
Women of the same age with partners or families are also taking on “more of a bread-winning role, not purely bread-buying”, he adds.
The trend carries through to the jobs men do around the home. For all five household chores mentioned in the survey, men aged 25 to 34 are the most likely to say they always do them themselves. But certain jobs are still mostly done by women, including ironing, which 33% of all men say they never do, and cleaning the bathroom, which 18% of men say they never do. Washing up, vacuuming and cooking are all carried out with more enthusiasm by men.
Some brands want to reverse the ill-feeling towards certain household chores by developing special “tools” for men. Philips recently launched a “power tool” iron with imagery showing a young man ironing his own clothes.
Marketers should also consider targeting the family man, according to Mintel’s research. Men with children living in the household are far more likely to shop for cleaning products and do chores. Of the men surveyed who live with their own children, 28% are the principal shopper for cleaning products in the family, compared with 20% of those who do not live with any children of their own.
There are exceptions according to the age of the children, however. Men who have children aged up to four are actually less likely to shop for cleaning products, do the washing up or cook than men who do not have their own children at home. This is perhaps because women are still likely to take more time off work to look after babies and pre-school toddlers.
“At the very early stage we are still a society that, wrongly or rightly, relies on women to do that,” Cope observes.
Without doubt men are more likely than ever to buy cleaning products, and as such retailers and manufacturers could target them more. But rather than using Top Gear-style tactics to convince them that irons are manly performance machines – an approach that Cope considers “a bit silly” – brands might be better off attempting to make cleaning the house a more appealing endeavour.
He points out that menial household tasks can offer an opportunity to multitask or take in some entertainment at the same time. While mops with embedded media players are perhaps beyond the realms of possibility, Cope points to the online resurrection of TV comedy character Alan Partridge by Foster’s lager as a more likely model to be emulated.
“Some of the big cleaning brands could do something very similar. You could watch 10 minutes of Alan Partridge while you iron your shirts. That kind of tie-in sells it as a pleasurable bit of down-time.”
There is also scope for brands to help educate men. The findings that more young men are buying cleaning products and doing chores do not mean they are any good at the jobs themselves. As with DIY, there is a skills gap among younger men when it comes to maintaining the home, Cope contends.
He suggests YouTube tutorials or QR codes on products that link to online advice as ways of addressing this. “The distance of digital removes a lot of the embarrassment factor and allows people to train themselves,” he says.
If his prediction is borne out, men might find themselves subjected to feature-length infomercials by the likes of Barry Scott, Cillit Bang’s fictional cleaning fanatic. Even if this does not come to fruition, brands could be offering more accessible ways of helping men overcome their ignorance of cleaning, and actively encouraging more men to share the household chores.
We ask marketers on the frontline whether our trends’ research matches their experiences on the ground
International marketing director
Cleaning and laundry are really traditionally entrenched categories, where a lot of the buying habits have been passed down from mother to daughter. But men have come in and changed the market because they are new to buying them, which has led to an explosion of new products and more interest in innovation.
The other trend we have seen is about health and wellness, and values-driven buying, which I think men are responsible for.
Two guys started Method in their mid-20s about 10 years ago. What they were really about was creating a completely different cleaning experience. They moved cleaning from being functional and a product category that is focused on features, to being one that is more driven by lifestyle and beliefs.
When you look at the cleaning product buyers, there has clearly been a shift, in that it is not only women who clean any more. Everybody, from traditional companies and smaller companies, will have picked up on this.
Men are now more likely and more willing to buy cleaning products because younger men in their 20s and 30s are having to look after themselves.
I would not say that we have a male-specific product, but a lot of our products appeal to both men and women. We find that women go for very fragrant products like fabric softener, while men tend to go for products that make their life easier like the power cleaner and the all-purpose cleaner.
Ecover is not a gender-specific brand. Some other brands may be more gender-specific, but we always incorporate male and female attributes, behaviours and views in our product development. Men and women have the same kind of needs in that sense. They want something they can pick up, they can use and that does the job.
We can always work a bit harder to communicate our message that cleaning is not as bad as everybody thinks, and with the right products it can be a pleasure. We always need to work harder at getting those key messages across – possibly more for men, who are not as familiar with the market, than for women.
We have a new newsletter going out in the next month or so that will be more accessible and will possibly have links where you can click through to show people how best to use our products.
Kokomo (licensee of Home & Gardens cleaning products)
As a business, home and cleaning is very new to us. We signed a licence with IPC Media, which owns the Home & Gardens brand, last year and this week we are shipping products out.
The majority of cleaning products are bought by women, whether it is a weekly shop online or directly from the supermarket. Men are more likely to use a kitchen product if it can be clearly seen on display on a work surface rather than opening the kitchen cupboard to be faced with an array of choice.
Cleaning is very price-competitive so price is obviously key, but so is style.
of men who have children aged 10-15 buy cleaning products.
of men who have children aged 5-9 do all the household shopping.
of men who do not have children do the regular main food shop.
See Trends Domestic Duties tables in ‘Related Files’ below