Brand Strategy


Fred Richards

CMO & Partner

January 3rd, 2020

For too long, men have been patronized with the same old marketing tactics: sexy women, fast cars, and hyper-aggression. Although there have been some disruptive marketing campaigns in recent years such as Dollar Shave Club, the old-school approach continues to dominate branding initiatives for men. However, contemporary male consumers are not cavemen. They no longer rely on fantasy or seek a “for men” tagline to sell them grooming products. Instead, they want to be seduced by evidence and persuaded by clear data that a product works. They want to feel like an involved, evolved, and active participant in the process of discovering which grooming products work for them to solve their unique problems. Consequently, the question comes up: How can brands deploy benefits-driven and user-focused products in a crowded and remarkably clichéd category? How can a brand move beyond the gleaming cans of black and silver and present products that engage directly with contemporary male consumers?

Branding Initiatives For Men

If a male consumer picks up a product, there’s an 80% chance he will place it in the cart. But men shop as if they’re hunting, which means they’re assessing multiple shapes, colors, and product claims at shelf all at the same time before honing in on a selection. Grooming brands can leverage this hunting approach with compelling packaging that encourages men to pick up their products. Taking inspiration from the men’s aftershave and cologne market, one approach is finding an object he is already familiar with (preferable from a category outside the one you are designing for) and replicating this product design. In this way, grooming brands can move beyond the ubiquitous female form and flashy graphics and turn the form language of a drink bottle, for example, into a shaving cream or aftershave bottle. This surprising change in form will intrigue men to pick the product.

Men’s personal care sees stable growth

“The men’s personal care market has seen gradual growth in annual sales since 2014. Sales totaled $4.4 billion in 2018, up 2.7% from the year prior, and is expected to continue to grow over the next five years.”

Mintel, Men’s Personal Care- US, September 2018

Men stick to what they know

“As more than 60% of men agree that they buy the same products or brands, growth may be somewhat limited unless brands can encourage consumers to try new products. Entrants to the category must appeal to the gradual changes in men’s personal care routines, which are leaning away from purely functional purchase, by providing unique offerings to compete with hygiene staples.”

Mintel, Men’s Personal Care-US, September 2018

How a product feels in their hands is also incredibly important to men. Being able to determine how the product works and feels in relation to the entire category happens in microseconds, so brands need to deliver their promise in the brief window of time they have a male consumer’s attention. Secure this attention by taking inspiration from the wide range of materials men handle each day—from concrete to sheet metal—and employ these textures in the design.

Don’t be afraid to challenge men at shelf and on pack. Find a balance between clear communication and letting men figure out the brand’s purpose and product benefits on their own. For example, placing shelves at an angle as opposed to straight aisles stimulates and encourages men to “hunt” for products. Alternatively, creating a beacon in store that leverages your brand assets with an eye-catching display of LED lights and an interactive iPad with skincare quizzes and product descriptions will engage men with what they like to do best: problem solving (of course, the argument exists that men are much better at causing problems than they are at solving them—which we’ll save for another time). Deploy various elements of your brand story across different packs or incorporate information in such a way that you can cultivate a man’s confidence and sense of intelligence as he pieces together different components of your brand to build the whole. Rely on the principle of ‘magnified reward’ where incorporating a little work or challenge into the packaging creates a sense of accomplishment for male consumers. More specifically, men like to pull things apart so that they can figure out how something works for themselves: Adding touchpoints that encourage deconstruction or increase physical interactions are always a bonus.

The opportunity and size of the prize when it comes to male grooming products is immense and yet very few have managed to tackle the subject or address contemporary male consumers in a meaningful fashion. The lowest common denominator wins out every time and then we wonder why the male consumer remains so uneducated at shelf (not to mention in front of the bathroom mirror or in the shower). Beyond grooming products, I can identify an opportunity to engage with him in across multiple categories in every retailer. And yet as I assess the landscape of these categories there is nothing for him.