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Is It the End of Men? Or Just the End of Marketing to Men?

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Mantyhose. Guyliner. The murse. These days you’d have to live in a prehistoric cave to not notice that modern gender roles are changing fast, and if a spate of recent best-selling books and big-buzz articles are to be believed, all these changes point in one direction: It’s the end of men.

Now before you go punch something, just look at the numbers. For the first time in US history, more women are in the workforce than men. Only 1 in 5 men of prime working age are employed. There are more female than male college graduates, at a ratio of 3 to 2. Of the 15 fastest-growing jobs in the US, all but two are female-dominated professions. Women in every segment of society are garnering an ever-increasing percentage of economic and cultural power.

To match those numbers we’re seeing a corresponding shift in values. Increasingly, quote-unquote “feminine” values (collaboration, communication, consensus-building) are being valued in the workplace over traditional “male” values (aggression, competition, hierarchy). And the cultural milieu outside the workplace is mirroring this shift, as a less traditional version of masculinity has increasingly become the norm. Culturally, classic versions of masculinity have become either a viral joke or just plain hated. Just look at the popularity of rico-suave spoofs like Old Spice Guy or the Most Interesting Man. Or the fact that absolutely no one on earth actually likes Seth MacFarlane. These values are being replaced by a focus on men’s fashion, men’s grooming, makeup for men, even homemaking.

But what does all this mean for us as marketers?

It means two things: Men are no longer what we think they are. And perhaps more importantly, neither are women.

Let’s talk about the dudes first. The New Man is a much more sensitive fellow. Some call him metrosexual. Some call him hipster. Some say he’s a foodie, or a sartorialist, or maybe an “open-minded adventurer.” But regardless of nomenclature, he’s more aligned with the “feminine” values outlined above, and he’s far more attuned to the cultural force of his sisters around him. In other words, he’s just as repelled by Seth MacFarlane as she is.

Now let’s talk about her — is she what we imagine her to be? Turns out she emphatically is not. Time and again we see that, contrary to what we’ve been told, women are as much a percentage of our target consumer as men. For proof just take a closer look at some of the time-honored pastimes of the man-cave: football, video games and whisky. The NFL reports that 44% of its fans are now women, and the league’s decision to put their marketing focus on the fairer sex has paid off in spades. We also know that women are now 45% of gamers, despite rampant sexism in the video-game industry. And as for the darker spirits such as whisky, long considered that most masculine of beverages, a number of new numbers have come to light to show that women also drink whisky and indeed always have. Not only that, but all those new flavored whiskies supposedly created to attract the more delicate palates? Turns out men like them more than women do.

So is it the end of marketing to men? Perhaps not. Let’s just say it’s still a man’s world, but it ain’t nothing without marketing to a woman or a girl.

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Written by Michelle Heller
Michelle Heller

August 14th, 2013 at 11:47 am