Gender Blending, Marketing to the “New” Man
by Cheryl Swanson

This season’s hottest marketing buzzword "metrosexual" is just that ... a buzzword that doesn’t really reflect what’s going in the culture with men. Metrosexual, defined as a contemporary urban, educated, affluent male who is in touch with his feminine side, labels lots of straight men as “faux gay” and excludes gay men altogether.

“Metrosexualism” is a component of a larger trend toward “human-ness” or being the best one can be by blending those aspects of masculinity and femininity that let men be their best. This evolution of gender roles reflects the emergence of a new “human aesthetic.”

The traditionally male attributes of logical, linear thinking, aggression, and dominance of the public sphere, which have characterized (stereo) - typical masculinity through the ’80s has evolved greatly since Gordon Gekko declared “greed is good”.

Due to many factors, including the feminist revolution, men now find themselves undergoing an evolution of their own. No longer solely responsible for bread-winning, protecting the homestead, or even fathering the offspring, male social roles are changing to become more dimensional.

Gen Y Men Lead the Evolution

Young Gen Y men between the ages 15 and 25 are leading this evolution. Diversity is a hallmark of their generation...cultural diversity, gender role diversity (female and male roles are much less rigidly defined than they were even 20 years ago; the complexion of families has transcended the homogenous, nuclear family), and sexual diversity (being gay is not the stigma it was even a mere 10 years ago).

With access to the globe from a pocket device, world cultures positively influences the cosmologies of this generation. One trait of this male evolutionary journey is the propensity to borrow attributes from other cultures, ethnicities and from the other gender, in order to express their own identity. Unleashed from a traditional archetype of masculinity, men are borrowing SOME attributes of the feminine (organic, intuitive, playful, optimistic) to express their own emergent human-ness.

This “human-ness” is reflected in a stronger need to look good to attract a mate or partner (short or long term!). Being unthinking about one’s appearance is no longer an exciting attribute. Consequently, traditionally female behaviors like shopping and grooming have become behaviors adopted by young men in particular. But these young men shop and groom on their own terms.

For example, while complexity is something men may like in other areas of their lives, (cars, machines, technology), simplicity is key in skin care. Multifunctional and straightforward...no complex creams and systems of lotions, potions and elixirs for them. And, nothing obvious like bronzer or make-up; just solutions for clear and good looking skin. The only area that can be “obvious” is hair care (styling gels) and haircolor, which is the fastest growing personal care segment for men.

Other examples of Gender Blending

  • Condé Nast is preparing a shopping magazine for men;
  • Unilever’s Axe deodorant body spray comes to the US, essentially a male perfume disguised as a deodorant, which rivals Old Spice;
  • Lancome is launching it’s Lancome Homme line for men.

The New Human Aesthetic

Inherent to this “human” trend is an aesthetic that blends both the “linearity” and “logic” of masculinity with the organic, fluid forms and brightness of femininity, for a truly human aesthetic. That’s why brands like Apple iPod, Nike’s ubiquitous swoosh and even the VW Beetle, appeal to males and females alike. They embrace the “curvilinear,” “organomic” attributes inherent in what is becoming the “human principle”… a blend of both masculine and the feminine principles.

The new men chafe at traditional male roles, partly because they've seen women cross over successfully, partly because they subconsciously reject the tyrannical pace of technology to which we’ve become tethered. As a result, there's a real yearning to celebrate our organic side; hence the appeal of the VW Beetle’s curves, the rounded half-globe design of the iMac, the squared up curves and smooth textures of the iPod.

Who’s Ripe for Blending?

Men are moving out of the Dockers mode. The new males want to express their individuality in new ways, and that means huge potential for fashion brands from Armani to Express for Men. Other ripe industries beyond personal care and fashion include beer and spirits, which ease the stress of social situations and help men to embrace their more self-indulgent, aesthetic sides.

But marketers can overdo it. For example, the Australian wunderkind swimmer Ian Thorpe, who recently launched his own line of pearls for men. That's going too far.


Cheryl Swanson is a Principal of Toniq LLC, a brand strategy firm dedicated to building Brand Effervescence©. Visit www.toniq.com .

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