Strategy stirs the pot. Again

Apparently men are misunderstood. And 225 marketing execs turned up at strategy's Understanding Men confab last month to take a stab at remedying that by finding out why 77% of Canadian males think images of men in advertising don't show them as they really are, and how the ads are out of touch with reality.

Apparently men are misunderstood. And 225 marketing execs turned up at strategy’s Understanding Men confab last month to take a stab at remedying that by finding out why 77% of Canadian males think images of men in advertising don’t show them as they really are, and how the ads are out of touch with reality.

Ultimately, the piece of research that was the trigger for this event, Leo Burnett’s 2,500-men, 14-country Metros vs. Retros: Are Marketers Missing Real Men? study, attracted more than ad interest. The whole concept of men’s roles undergoing radical change, yet escaping the societal shift scrutiny that women and kids have undergone, captured imaginations on a broader scale, including front page coverage in the Toronto Star.

While a typical focus has been women’s struggle to juggle family and career, the fact that there are more stay-at-home dads and more men with female bosses than ever before has been given less play. In Canada, over half of all men in their late 20s are single, whereas in the ’70s, only one in five was. Maybe this explains why the men’s personal care market now has a growth pace double that of women’s. And why 65% of men think boys should learn how to cook.

In Canada, 22% of the guys identify with the metrosexual (the groomed and urbane New Man) and just 18% of Canadians relate to the stereotype most beer ads seem to target – the retro male. The bigger group is the Power Seekers (27% here) while the largest group globally (33% here) is the Patriarchs, for whom family comes first. In fact, 87% of Canadian men felt men should work less and spend more time with their family.

The findings led to some marketing advice, key points being: Embrace male complexity and anticipate further male adaptation. In a nutshell, figure out where your brand fits into his life and how he’s adapting. Also, there’s still a time and place to ‘let the primal man out to play’ and not to be afraid to re-masculate your brand with provocative, uniquely male approaches.

A roundtable on Canadian marketing hits and misses (lots of debate on the merits of characters like the Keith’s spilly pants man and the Canadian Tire guy) rounded out the morning. Interestingly, the panel supported the theory that there is still a time and place for the Retro, with a few of the male marketers even chiming in that they found the Canadian Tire guy too emasculating.

Our columnist John Bradley brought to life the idea that everybody can be everything at some point during their day, running through his itinerary to show that by moisturizing, being grumpy over leaving too early to breakfast with the family in order to appear on an industry panel, and planning a soccer-centric get-together, he had exhibited traits of all four types.

One exec commented that perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the event was that it had created buzz around the topic, legitimizing a deeper look into the male persona as it relates to advertising. So, strategy thanks Leo B prez David Moore for offering to share the learning. It’s exactly the kind of thought stimulant that strategy creates live forums for.

HOMEWORK: Next up, we’re putting together a brand experience tool kit day in March, and are already planning away symposiums on women, our annual youth confab and our second Media Forum in the fall. So, if there’s a related topic, issue, or amazingly brilliant piece of work you feel passionate about, or just curious about, give me a shout. Also, Media in Canada is revamping its online presence, so now is a good time to suggest more media-centric content you would find useful. We’re all about upping the interactivity, so please share your ideas for the next pot-stirring strategy or MIC forum, be it live, or virtual.

Cheers, mm

Mary Maddever, exec editor of strategy and Media In Canada

Live: 416.408.0864. virtual: maddever@brunico.com