min read

Personal care items from Mars and Venus

by James Llewellyn , 18.11.2015

Let's face it. Sometimes the title of that self-help book popular in the 1990s still rings true: Yes, men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

When it comes to shopping for personal care items, I definitely see more differences than similarities. Indeed, talking about the differences between men and women is an age-old favorite pastime for millions of people around the world.

Before I take up that favorite topic, I'd like to point out that the difference in the way men shop for and think about the growing category of personal care items, compared to women, is an opportunity for marketers because men and women do not engage with the category in the same way.

Communication Styles

First let's look at communications styles. Where women are prone to seek advice from their peers about which personal care items to buy, the data paints a different picture for men. They are more likely to avoid asking for advice of any kind from any source. They lack a safe space for having that conversation, and this means marketers have more chance to shape the dialogue around their products. They've got more of the man's attention, in other words.

If you're my friend and you buy a lot of moisturizer, for instance, you probably won't bring that up to me next time we are in the pub. Or let's put it this way: You know which friends you can discuss moisturizer with and with which friends that subject would be inviting ridicule.

Since men really don't engage with the category, marketers may want to consider more "anonymous" styles of information - e.g. digital product demonstrations or detailed product information online, such as expert advice on videos or social media. Or they may want to explore different touch points that may be relevant. It may come down to persuading men to engage with the products using simple cues and keeping detailed information light.

Making assumptions

In the early days of the growth of personal care items for men, marketers understandably followed the formula set by sales in this category to women. Particularly on packaging, they provided detailed information about the regime, skin tone etc., with the focus of communication being to look your best. The same applies to TV ads. Most male grooming ads follow the clean-cut, "uber" handsome tone set by ads for women.

Now marketers must avoid making the assumption that men are following the same path as women in personal care: They should not believe that because men buy more and more personal care items, they must care about them to the same degree as women and will be persuaded by the same styles of communication.

Blog_How men shop personal care_picture II

Bulldog, a men's brand, is an interesting example. It has chosen an icon symbolic of understated but distinctive confidence. It has eschewed the notion that men and women want the same thing in this context – to look good.

Effort and Research

A second point besides communication styles is how much work men are willing to invest in finding the right product. The numbers about online research before a purchase reveal that men are less motivated to conduct detailed research. They are less likely to search for coupons, look at information at the shelf, try the product in store, look at reviews by experts, ask the opinion of friends and family and do research online.

Interestingly, this isn’t reflective of how men shop in general. As said previously, in fashion, for instance, men appear to do just as much research as women.

This isn’t to say that men can’t be influenced during their path-to-purchase. Recent data collected by Gfk shows promotions and clear packaging are essential to help young male shoppers choose between products when they are in a shop, as well as to encourage impulse buys and new product trials.

The way you look

For many people, the way they look and the way they take care of themselves is increasingly important as a statement of individuality and part of the process of self-actualization. I see this across the data in the category - both men and women want freedom to express themselves through their appearance.

For marketers, this is an opportunity, particularly given the results of a 2015 study of more than 27,000 consumers aged 15 and above in 22 countries. The global average number of consumers completely satisfied with their looks was... a drum roll please... only 12 percent.

Even though people do care about their looks, and just because men are following women into this category, it doesn’t mean that the same rules apply. The female need when it comes to shopping is about certainty that the decision of what to buy is the right one. The male need is more about simplicity of message.

Therefore, my recommendation to clients comes down to this: To tap the opportunity the market presents, marketers will have to travel to the planet of Mars to gain a deeper understanding of mind of its inhabitants.

For more information please contact James Llewellyn at james.llewellyn@gfk.com.


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