Why the lack of representation of ‘real men’ means marketing needs to change

Why the lack of representation of ‘real men’ means marketing needs to change

From the masculine driven car adverts of the 1960s, to the rise of the ‘metrosexual’ in the mid nineties, the way brands and advertisers market their products to men has changed dramatically over time, but who are the men of 2017 and are they properly represented in the media?

It used to be that selling to men meant selling a status. Brands such as BMW and Brylcreem pushed aspirational campaigns based on a specific way they wanted their audiences to feel, usually wealthy or good looking. But as millenial audiences and the older generation prioritise alternative aspirations such as philanthropy those strategies are in need of an update.

“Men are the enemy and not thought about at all. There is no real representation for what is a real man now. The words like metrosexual don’t apply anymore,” said Jonathan Durden, co-founder of PHD Media, and founder of men’s grooming brand Below The Belt, at Advertising Week Europe today (22 March). He referenced the ‘caring, sharing’ stereotype that was abundant in advertising during the boom of men’s magazines in the 1990s, which he said feels outdated.

Model David Gandy echoed Durden’s thoughts and shared his experience at the beginning of his career of trying to introduce a different type of look during a time when brands were pushing the androgynous look.

“I don’t think we are represented and we are the enemy at the moment. We are seeing for the first time men’s fashion outgrowing women’s. It’s in its infancy of men being able to talk about fashion and that has taken a long, long time. In the fashion industry people think they are innovators but we all follow one another like sheep. [When I started my career] everyone was trying to be the skinny androgynous guy…I was bigger and aspired to the alpha male look, that was what I wanted to do not be the androgynous guy in a Burberry campaign, that is not that attractive and I tried to do something different.”

While many brands are adapting their marketing strategies for the modern age to include messages that communicate their provenance and social stand point, finding a way to speak to men of all ages and demographics that doesn’t homogenise men is a problem the industry is facing.

“Masculinity was once represented by the motor car, which was the ultimate status but that has now entirely changed with the concept of the sharing economy,” added Robin Wight, president at Engine.

The issue is what replaces the car? Is it clothing, the restaurant visits…we still have the same need even if car doesn’t deliver it. We need to show our status and if the car doesn’t do it what does?”

Wright also touched on the issue of mental health among young men and said that as industry more needs to be done in the workplace to offer support to those in need.

“The last taboo in marketing is mental health and our industry is not doing enough in this area” he said. “What we have to recognise is that if a business doesn’t support the mental health of its workers then it is letting them down”.

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