Metrosexuality is dead. Or if it's still alive, no one at today's "The Man Conference," presented by Advertising Age and Maxim, was checking its pulse.
Testosterone-heavy topics such as beer, cars and razors were on the agenda for three panels, which were comprised of marketing directors from advertisers including Burger King, Volkswagen and Anheuser Busch, whose VP-brand management, Marlene V. Coulis, was the keynote speaker.
Spend more than they make
Rob Gregory, group publisher of Maxim, and Scott Donaton, associate publisher of the Ad Age Group, kicked things off by discussing the statistics of a 500-man survey conducted just weeks before the conference. The results spoke to the surprisingly high consumer activity of the average male. For example, 58% of men polled spend more money than they make each month. "It almost makes their target household income irrelevant," Mr. Donaton said.
The survey also reported an increased amount of purchase activity among men aged 18 to 34 in clothing, specifically in department stores, something long thought to be a predominantly female habit. "It dispels the myth that guys 'mission shop' only once a month," Mr. Donaton said.
With consumer secrets revealed, the panelists proceeded to discuss ways they've successfully tapped into the purchasing power of men as well as a few ventures they're still exploring.
Some highlights of the discussions:
'Answer is control'
When it comes to entertainment, marketing to men can be tricky. But Jeff Bell, VP-interactive entertainment at Microsoft, has a solution.
"The answer is control," Mr. Bell said during the "Boys and Their Toys" panel. "The more we relinquish control the better. We really need to present male consumers with both the right hardware and software so they can watch the content they want with less-spooky marketing."
That relinquishing of control and subsequent rise in user-generated content has been an emerging way to both engage consumers and shape the products being advertised.
"It doesn't have to be visual content. It's not something to be afraid of," said Mark-Hans Richer, director of marketing at Pontiac.
Power of the average man
"I don't believe in focus groups in hotel ballrooms," said Kerri Martin, director-brand innovation at Volkswagen.
Ms. Martin's recent launch of the Volkwagen GTI was released without focus-group feedback and was a huge success. In fact, it was so popular among consumers across the country that it elicited user-generated videos and design models of the product.
Ms. Martin's co-panelist during "Learning the Language," JWT New York Co-President Ty Montague, agreed that the reliability of middle America is key when launching a campaign. "The whole metrosexuality thing only exists on two coasts of the country," Mr. Montague said. "There's a whole group of men out there who've been pretty much the same for the last 20 years."
All about the product
Star power can boost an already strong product, but only so much. Rohan Oza, senior VP-marketing at Energy Brands, has seen strong sales of his company's Glaceau Vitamin Water, thanks in part to a campaign that featured sports teams, rapper 50 Cent and singer Kelly Clarkson. But at the end of the day, it's the product you have to sell to the consumer.
"When you can connect with a person and say, 'Here's nutrients, hydration and a laugh,' they'll say, 'I'll take that,'" Mr. Oza said during the discussion "Getting Men to Say, 'I Love You' (to a Brand)."
The power of word of mouth is much more effective with men than any celebrity or athlete endorsement, said Rose Cameron, senior VP-planning director at Leo Burnett USA.
"For males, friends are extremely important," Ms. Cameron said. "The advertising people are giving them options, but ultimately they're going to decide among themselves what they like."