It's Raining Men

In advertising, a good man is sometimes hard to find. So avoiding the stereotype trap can pay off with a barrage of male customers.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the May 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you were to describe the typical American male based solely on the images portrayed in marketing media, you'd say he was a buffoon who knew nothing about what to buy or how to shop, and even less about running his home or taking care of his children. In short, male consumers are more likely to be insulted by their depiction in marketing media than to be motivated by it. According to a study by Leo Burnett Worldwide Inc., nearly 80 percent of American men say they can barely recognize themselves in advertisements.

Most advertising is out of step with men's reality. With a large percentage of women working, men in their 20s and 30s who are parents are spending considerably more time with their children than their fathers did, plus doing at least some of the family's grocery shopping and making more household purchasing decisions. And millions of baby boomer males also shop more than their fathers and grandfathers did.

As an entrepreneur, you have the advantage of getting to know your real male customers more easily than most larger businesses. And you can develop marketing messages that genuinely reflect who they are and what they want. After all, customers respond most to advertising messages that ring true.

So how can you create marketing messages that resonate with American men? Here are four tips for putting your marketing on the right track.

1. Throw away the stereotypes. All men are not either macho tough guys or feminized metrosexuals, so stop thinking of them monolithically. Many men are capable dads. Some may excel at home repair, while others love to cook.

2. Make them laugh. Humor is a great way to grab and hold your audience. Just stay away from sophomoric humor that paints a denigrating portrait of your male prospect. You know the guy: the bungling idiot who can't do anything right and is always the butt of the joke. He's the fellow some major marketers are presenting--and getting all wrong.

Go for originality and creativity in ads that have surprising and unexpected outcomes. Keep it smart and rely on visuals, particularly those that depict action over verbiage. You'll have a winning combination if you can also use superlatives and allude to competition and victory, since men are especially attracted to images of success.

3. Show the right stuff. It's true that when it comes to men, sex sells. If a sexual connotation is appropriate for your product or service, you'll sell more if you include a man with a woman in your advertising. Men want to see an outcome that depicts the woman being happy with the man, which visually portrays him as successful.

Male shoppers want to know what results others have had with a product or service. Consequently, effective marketing should depict an individual or a group of men interacting with a product and having a positive outcome. Facts and figures that back up claims are also very appealing to men.

4. Create a manly space. Is your marketing challenge to draw male customers to a retail or service location? Be sure to carve out a nongirly space where they'll feel comfortable. Hair salons and spas, for example, are creating areas for men only, complete with ESPN on the TV and beer in the refrigerator.

If you're packaging a product for both men and women, stay away from words and images with traditionally feminine connotations. Follow the example of Pepsi-Cola. Though Pepsi One is a diet drink, the word "diet" doesn't appear anywhere on the packaging. This is done intentionally to court male diet soda drinkers who want something more manly in their grocery shopping carts.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business, at Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur at

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