ISSUE NO. 70 10/31/12

Recent research that has come out of the University of Illinois suggests that advertisers may need to rethink how they portray men in advertising. In an analysis of messages targeted to men, Cele Otnes (the Investors in Business Education Professor of Marketing at Illinois) and Linda Tuncay Zayer (of Loyola University, Chicago) found that men often respond negatively to depictions of masculinity in advertising, finding them unrealistic. Otnes noted that when men compare themselves to hyper-masculine or over-exaggerated male stereotypes, they experience feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability along with a range of other emotions.

The male demographic is much more fragmented than previously thought, so ads that try to pigeonhole men into one of just a few stereotypes can end up alienating them from the brand. "A lot of ads directed at males are still dominated by ‘The Player,' ‘The Beer Drinker' or ‘The Buddy,' " Otnes said. "But those stereotypes don't actually fit the vast majority of males. Advertisers and marketers need to broaden the spectrum, and create campaigns centered on more of the actual roles that men play – ‘The Dad,' ‘The Husband' and ‘The Handyman.' "
The analysis uncovered six themes, three negative and three positive. The typical responses were negative and included skepticism, avoidance and indifference. The positive responses included enhancement, striving and chasing, and served as a type of motivational tool to bring out an aspect of their personalities. "While partying and promiscuity are often depicted in advertising, some men find these images to be negative portrayals of their gender and are, in fact, turned off by them," said Otnes. "So it's important to recognize that some men may react negatively or be adversely impacted by such images."

It's critical to understand how advertising depictions of men impact them. Falling back on stereotypes that portray them in limited roles plays against building brand relationships, so as marketers we need to consider how men are depicted in our messages. For the savvy marketer, the opportunity is bigger than just learning to avoid negative stereotyping in order to avoid alienating male shoppers. There is the opportunity to build new, stronger relationships with men by authentically portraying them in all their complexity. Consider how you can demonstrate a deeper understanding of the male psyche through your messages and offers. Identify the type of role men embody while using your products specifically and tailor your marketing to "that guy."

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"Research: Men Respond Negatively to Depictions of ‘Ideal Masculinity' in Ads," News Bureau Illinois, 8/1/12

advertising, men, shopper research

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