Marketing to men makes no friends with my readers

Ruth Mortimer is Marketing Week’s associate editor and a prolific blogger. She won a PPA Award for her forthright and insightful columns on marketing.

I’ve written about marketing to women a lot recently. You can check out my opinions on marketing ice-cream to girls here and beer to ladies here. But no sooner had I drawn attention to these areas than outraged men began writing to me, demanding that I cover what one called the “sloppy business of marketing to men, where everything needs to be mansize and macho because we can’t appreciate anything unless it has “MEN” on it in large letters”.

Wow. Turns out some men hate gender-based marketing even more than the women I’ve been talking to. So thanks to some helpful readers, I’ve compiled a list of my top three most unpopular campaigns marketing to men.

1. Cosmo for Guys. This new iPad app has attracted attention because its marketing claims that because it is a magazine written by women for guys, it helps men “get inside the heads of women” for the first time. It implies that men are sitting around waiting to get inside the heads of women – I’m not sure they really care. And when you have women with iPads for heads, it all looks a bit inhuman. It sort of ends up dehumanising women instead of bringing the genders closer together.

2. The Real McCoys. These are apparently for men. Except you wouldn’t really notice in-store unless you picked up a pack and saw a strange box on the back of the pack saying “MAN CRISPS” and not really elaborating beyond “as thick as you like them”. If you go online, there is definitely a blokey feel to the website – it’s got a pub! And a curry promotion! And a rugby promotion! But it doesn’t really knock you over the head with exactly why these crisps are for men. It reminds me of the Yorkie ‘Not for Girls’ campaign, which to give it credit, was carried out across every type of media and made me laugh. This one, though, seems a bit halfhearted – there isn’t much humour involved.

3. Miller Lite. An American ad this time and this one was pointed out to me because a blogger called Kelsey Wallace has done a lovely post about this one. Basically, it tells guys to “Man Up!” and order a Miller Lite. Now, I can see that they are trying to make Lite beer appear manly, which is fair enough, but why is it not manly? The main problem is that it perpetuates lots of male stereotypes under the guise of laughing at them.

So, any great marketing to men examples out there? Does anyone love the campaigns above? I’ll leave you with the words of Jamie Halliday, who wrote a blog himself about marketing to men and his own experience with male focus groups.

Halliday says that when trying to think how to market hot chocolate to men with a more ‘manly’ proposition, it turned out men didn’t need one. They felt hot chocolate was not unmanly. The creative solutions suggested by a focus group of men all suggested laughing at the idea that the product was for women and “getting approval from other men for doing something that is traditionally feminine”.

I haven’t looked at much hot chocolate lately but I hope there isn’t a shelf now with “For Men! Real Men!” plastered all over it.

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