Traditional women’s brands go for men

Archie Bunker wouldn't have dared dab moisturizer on his face, or throw in a load of laundry. But today's regular joe is much less affected by such black-and-white gender designations, thanks to a general blurring of roles in recent years. That's been good news for brands traditionally targeted at the fair sex - like Maytag, Whirlpool, L'Oréal and Diet Pepsi - who are now reaching out to the male demo like never before. And the subsequent results have made it all worthwhile.

Archie Bunker wouldn’t have dared dab moisturizer on his face, or throw in a load of laundry. But today’s regular joe is much less affected by such black-and-white gender designations, thanks to a general blurring of roles in recent years. That’s been good news for brands traditionally targeted at the fair sex – like Maytag, Whirlpool, L’Oréal and Diet Pepsi – who are now reaching out to the male demo like never before. And the subsequent results have made it all worthwhile.

As executive director of Toro magazine, geared to affluent, urban Canadian men aged 18 to 49, William Morassutti has witnessed the trend first hand. Since Toro debuted two years ago, female-oriented brands like Hermes, Givenchy, Chanel and even Vera Wang have signed on as advertisers.

‘There’s less insecurity around products that appeal to the more feminine side of men,’ says Morassutti, who adds this falls in line with broader societal trends. ‘Women are independent [and have] careers, so men must pick up some [household] responsibilities.’

Furthermore, he adds, the rules of courtship have changed. Women are no longer sitting at home, waiting by the phone for their white knight to ring. ‘As a result,’ says Morassutti, ‘men are feeling a need to be a little more well put together – more stylish, more groomed, more coifed – because a ‘woman of means’ is now in more of a position to select a mate.’

Many beauty brands are betting on it. Shoppers Drug Mart now sells Nair for Men wax strips and Biotherm Homme wrinkle corrector. In February, Montreal’s L’Oréal Canada launched Vive for Men – a line of five hair care products. Tim Coolican, group manager for L’Oréal Paris Hair Care, says the introduction of the brand is in response to a heightened concern about appearance among males. He adds: ‘[We found they liked] the notion of having something engineered for them.’

Research indicated that men were anxious about going grey, losing their hair and getting dandruff. So Vive for Men offers two solution-based regimes – anti-dandruff and thickening. To promote the new brand, L’Oréal used newspaper adverts, including a four-page wrap of free transit tab Metro. The ads, by Montreal-based Marketel, are very product-focused with simple headlines. Meanwhile, Vive for Men also has had a strong presence in gyms across the country, where half a million sachets of two-in-one shampoo were distributed. So far, sales at store level are 15% above objectives.

Similarly, L’Oréal’s Garnier Fructis anti-dandruff shampoo, which targets men and women 18-35, went after jocks in a big way this spring. For 12 weeks between April and June, guys could compete to become the ‘Ultimate Sports Fan’ thanks to a co-promo with TSN. TV ads drove viewers to the Web where participants answered trivia questions for a chance to tag along to a sports game with a TSN broadcaster.

Like Vive, Garnier Fructis was sampled in 80 gyms, as well as 120 bars, across the country. Says Scott Reid, group product manager: ‘The market for men’s aesthetic care is growing rapidly [see Gist box] – so it was a no-brainer. But Garnier’s customers are a 25% male and 75% female split, so there was room to get more men on board.’ No kidding. Due to the campaign, the brand claimed an 8.5 share in the anti-dandruff category for the four week period ended June 11 – a record high for the brand – making it the second-best-selling anti-dandruff shampoo

in Canada.

Then there’s the diet soda category, originally the exclusive domain of calorie-obsessed women. That too has changed. Chris Hamilton, director of marketing at Mississauga, Ont.-based Pepsi-Cola Canada, says it’s largely about giving men, who are now more health-conscious, what they want.

In the late ’90s – slightly ahead of its U.S. counterpart – the Canadian subsidiary reformulated and repositioned Diet Pepsi, which at the time was lagging behind Diet Coke in market share.

The result was the much more inclusive ‘Forever Young’ campaign from BBDO Toronto (and BBDO Montreal in Quebec), depicting characters who pine for their youth. A recent spot, ‘Jeans’ shows a guy who imagines donning his ’80s designer jeans, only to find out that it’s not such a good idea. But in the end, he discovers drinking Diet Pepsi ‘is great for youthful liberation,’ says Hamilton, who believes that a unisex approach allowed the brand to claim the number-one spot in Canada’s diet soda market. ‘If we had stayed on a low-cal positioning, we wouldn’t have seen the success we’ve seen today. [Going after a] male audience definitely allowed us to gain the full potential of the brand.’

In the U.S., Diet Pepsi has also made more of an effort in the last five years to entice the fellows. But Pepsi U.S. also went so far as to aim its soda brand, Pepsi One, squarely at males. Originally having debuted in 1998, the brand was relaunched in March. ‘It’s for those people who want diet drinks, but they’re not comfortable with the word ‘diet,” explains spokesperson David DeCecco, who says the bull’s-eye is men in their 20s and early 30s.’

Pepsi One is being supported by outdoor, print and 15-second TV ads, by New York’s TBWAChiatDay, that sport the tagline ‘Oneify.’

Maytag Canada, and Whirlpool, purveyors of appliances historically associated with housewives, are also catering directly to chaps with boy-toy products. Whirlpool has three – Gladiator GarageWorks, a line of gear for organizing garages that includes a refrigerator; the Personal Valet, a home drycleaning appliance; and the Fabric Freshener, a portable version of the Personal Valet, which will debut in Best Buy stores across North America next month.

GarageWorks is advertised through hookups with NASCAR – Whirlpool has a semi made up to look like a garage that has visited various events – as well as print ads in lad mags and TV spots on the Speed Channel in the States. The tag: ‘It’s time to rethink the garage.’ Meanwhile, Personal Valet is aimed at contractors and builders, and Fabric Freshener will be promoted through PR, as well as online.

And at Maytag Canada, there’s the one-year-old Skybox, a personal beverage vendor that dispenses pop or beer at the push of a button, and now, the Rookie, a new portable bar fridge. The appliances can be spruced up with branded panels, supplied by marketing partners that carry the logo of, say, Budweiser or an NFL team.

Explains Andy Abrahamse, marketing manager at the Burlington, Ont.-based company: ‘There’s this ‘man cave’ thing going on, where people want to build an entertainment area with a big screen TV, and they have more discretionary money to spend on those things. The vendor is a unique item that the male consumer can have a great conversation about.’

Both appliances are supported with retail promos. Sales for the Skybox have exceeded expectations by about 50%, while the Rookie has enjoyed results 80% higher than anticipated.

Judging by these experiences, however, one thing is clear: men are still from Mars. Says Toro’s Morassutti: ‘The metrosexual thing seems tired and played out. Responses from our readers [indicate] that while men are interested in fashion and style, they still like to be men.’ And marketers are catching on.

GIST BOX

* New York-based market research firm Packaged Facts reports guys

25 to 49 are responsible for more than 55% of the buying power of men in the U.S., and that’s expected to grow by nearly 25% to US$6.7 trillion in 2009.

* According to Chicago-based market researcher Euromonitor International, overall sales of male grooming products will surge 67%

to US$19.5 billion by 2008.

* A study by the Calorie Control Council south of the border found that the percentage of males buying diet beverages rose from 39% in 1994 to 53% a decade later.

Women in charge

Men do listen to the women in their lives.

Before launching Vive for Men, L’Oréal Canada did its homework to figure out if guys would actually accept a version of their wife’s brand in their shower. It turns out they were all for it, says L’Oréal Paris hair care group manager Tim Coolican. ‘Men [saw it as] a technical brand they could trust because their wife or partner, who is a discerning beauty customer, trusted it.’

And south of the border, when Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool launched the Gladiator GarageWorks line in 2002, it quickly realized it wasn’t a good idea to solicit men, without also making a play for their better half.

Explains marketing manager Christopher Hubbuch: ‘You’re talking about a multiple-thousand-dollar investment. You need to convince both parties.’

So while the original ad campaign, out of Whirlpool’s New York-based AOR Publicis, showed the garage as the ultimate male hangout, now GarageWorks is promoted as a means to transform the garage into a space that looks just as nice as the rest of the home.

Maytag, meanwhile, is hoping the opposite will happen and that its nifty male-oriented products, like the Skybox personal vendor, will make the brand seem edgier to its much larger female demo. ‘Maytag is seen in a positive light, it’s known for its great dependability, but it’s a bit on the boring side,’ says Andy Abrahamse, who hopes the likes of the Skybox can change that perception.