Men’s Health Week: how marketing to men has changed

men's health week marketing to men marketing

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Contrary to popular belief, men don’t just think about sex and tanks.


Sorry, what was that?

Anyway, as I was saying, men often get a bad rap when it comes to stereotypes. But, then, that’s true of virtually everyone on the planet. We can all be pigeonholed, misrepresented and misunderstood.

In marketing, that can result in some pretty dreadful campaigning.

This got me thinking; what with it being Men’s Health Week and all, how has marketing to men changed? What can we learn from the past and, if your audience is predominantly male, how can you best tailor your messages to hit the right nerves?

Old-school male marketing

Remember the guy in the Thompson’s Water Seal advert? What was his problem?

Chill out, mate. It just forms a waterproof barrier so rain can’t damage your bricks (as you succinctly point out). Why get so angry about it?

Whether or not Thompson’s assumed this approach would work because their audience might have been predominantly male, or if the guy was just tired of standing in wet clothes talking about an incredibly dull product, may never be known. Although, I think it’s the former.

I don’t know how well that weather sealant product worked, but I do know that appealing to the macho side of your audience doesn’t really work these days. Because they’re not necessarily ‘macho’, and even if they are, they go much deeper than that.

The dreadful statistics surrounding male suicide are a timely reminder that guys go far beyond power tools and lamenting Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss in Euro 96.

This is why emotional branding is so important. If you have a product, service or good cause to which you want to direct the attention of a largely (or solely) male audience, you need to appeal to what’s really going on in their heads.

Pull the right levers to that will sell your brand

What is emotional branding to men?

If you want to sell to guys these days, you need to figure out what they really want and desire. And, no, that isn’t always a topless girl on a motorbike eating a packet of pork scratchings.

For most guys, it has never been that. Trust me.

Instead, you need to find out what they really want to feel like. What is it that your product or service can do to make them feel better or answer a burning question that has been on their minds?

It’s no different to creating a general audience persona. For your male audience, you need to work out what they love, what they hate and what they dislike. Those findings will enable you to pull at just the right levers to elicit the emotions that will sell your brand to them.

4 tips for marketing to men

So, marketing to men used to be easy. That’s why peanut racks behind bars used to feature topless women on them. It’s why Yorkie bars were once so popular.

Now, you need to be a bit smarter than that.

Here are four modern ways to market to men.

Men aren't just about short-term benefits or instant gratification

1. Focus on the long-term benefit

Believe it or not, men aren’t just about short-term benefits and instant gratification. They want long-term benefits that are attainable.

It’s partly why we can now buy deodorant that lasts three days and hair products that don’t need retouching every hour. That kind of stuff is motivating because it’s totally hassle-free.

Men will invest in your products and services if they can see a clear long-term benefit that will make their lives better for longer than ten minutes.

Who’d have thunk it. Goes against everything you thought about guys, right?

Implausible numbers

2. Use numbers to validate what you’re saying

Men want proof. They like facts, figures and numbers which back up a company’s claims. Cliché or not, a lot of men probably won’t hang around for long winded descriptions of something and are far more likely to have their interest piqued by proof that you’re the real deal.

If you can’t provide stats or social proof (i.e. customer testimonials) about your product and it’s largely aimed at a male buyer persona, you may struggle to retain their interest.

Don’t resort to huge, implausible numbers, either, because they’ll just as quickly be disregarded as a lack of any numbers at all.

3. Go for that emotional nerve (it’s in there somewhere)

Men are human beings, which means they have an emotional core. Sometimes, it’s hidden behind layers of machismo (I bet the Thompson’s guy has cried at The Notebook), but that’s actually a great thing for marketers.

You see, the deeper the emotional nerve, the more effort you have to make to find it and touch it. But, when you do, the results can be transformative.

Fear of balding, fear of making the first move on people to whom you’re attracted – even razor burn; these are all common emotional nerves within men that can be touched by great marketing and which might just tempt them to spend their hard-earned money.

Marketing campaigns to men with female benefits

4. Make the benefits relevant to men

That might sound obvious, but too many marketing campaigns focus on extending female benefits to a male audience.

This rarely works. It’s why Nivea have their own range and marketing campaigns for male face cream.

If you have a product range that is designed for both sexes, don’t treat them as a single audience. Look hard enough, and the benefits (and even features) you’re offering will have different relevancy for men and women.

Guys are just as smart as women – they’ll spot when you’re simply bending a benefit for women to fit into their lives. And that simply won’t work.

Oh, and if you read the list above thinking, “but this all applies to women, too”: exactly.

Wrapping up

If your products or services are designed for a male audience, I hope the above has given you some inspiration for how to carry out your marketing campaigns this year and beyond.

One thing is for sure: marketing to men isn’t quite what it was before. Appealing to their ‘macho’ side (whatever that is) might work, depending on whatever it is you’re selling, but emotional branding is clearly where it’s at.

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