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Men's Beauty

By: Simone Bolotin (group leader), Colleen Celentano (co-leader), Renee Bukowski, Alexandra de Lara and Michael Kremer
Posted: June 4, 2014


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From biological motivations to popular depictions of accepted gender roles, men and women have historically approached grooming in vastly different ways. While American men have been successfully educated on basic grooming needs, the challenge ahead is to inspire men to adopt a more sophisticated skin care regimen.

The Tipping Point

We have reached a pivotal time in the future of men’s grooming. As a result of the economic crisis of 2008, the attitudes and mindset of the American male has evolved to encompass the “new masculinity.” Men today are more dynamic, open-minded, and sophisticated than ever before. Gender roles are no longer clearly defined, and the stereotypes of the past are becoming less relevant. While men’s internal motivations may not have shifted, external drivers are altering their wants, needs, and aspirations. The industry has reached a tipping point for men’s grooming as a direct result of men’s changing roles, changing views, and changing faces.

Changing Roles: Today, three out of four men agree that men and women don’t need to conform to traditional roles and behaviors anymore, and that gender doesn’t define a person as much as it used to. As noted in JWT Intelligence’s The State of Men report, “With gender roles blurring and many women working as much as or more than their partners, the household is becoming more gender neutral as men embrace an active role at home or are pushed into it out of economic necessity.” Household tasks and childcare are now commonly shared responsibilities. Research also shows that men are just as concerned as women with achieving a work-life balance. Two out of three men say they would stay home full time with their family if they could afford to. Over 90% of men also express that part of being a man today is taking care of family and those around you (Berelowtiz, 2013).

Changing Views: As men become more image-conscious, their perception of spending on fashion and grooming has also changed; men are placing higher stock in looking good. One out of three men say they actively choose to portray a particular look, and style themselves carefully to maintain it. Today, 76% of men agree that males are under more pressure than past generations to present a polished image. Some even say there is now as much pressure on men to dress well and be well groomed as there is on women (Berelowtiz, 2013). NPD reported that for the last few years (with the exception of 2012), sales of men’s apparel consistently outpaced growth in women’s. Sales of men’s apparel reached $57 billion in 2012 alone. Due to the emergence of digital resources such as fashion blogs and online retailers, men are more aware than ever of trends in clothing and accessories. New online retailers such as Bonobos and Mr. Porter provide curated experiences allowing men to shop at their convenience. As men get more comfortable with fashion and being style conscious, they are also paying closer attention to their grooming habits. Last year marked the first time that men spent more cash on male-specific toiletries than on shaving products (Walker, 2014).

Changing Faces: The face and demographics of the male consumer are also changing. The growth that is expected for older male age segments far surpasses that of the total population, with men aged 55-64 expected to grow by 8% and men aged 65-74 expected to grow by 21% by 2018 (Mintel, 2013). With Boomers and older demographics getting divorced at increased rates and putting off retirement due to economic challenges, it could lead to men focusing more on their appearance in order to compete with younger age groups.

On the other end of the spectrum, millennial men are more likely to accept products and routines associated with women’s grooming, such as facial cleansers and moisturizers, compared to older generations (Mintel, 2013). Mintel’s research suggests that this is a positive indicator for the skin care segment and overall category in the future, since younger men will likely continue to use skin care products as they age.

Population growth in both the African American and Hispanic male population will also be a positive market driver in the coming years. Both of these key demographics overindex in their use of several types of men’s personal care products, most notably skin care. Forty-seven percent of African American men report that they buy male-specific offerings—more than any other ethnic and racial segment (Mintel, 2013). Targeting African American and Hispanic men with relevant messaging and product benefits will be critical for overall category success in the coming years.

Despite all this growth and opportunity, the majority of brands are not focusing on men as a key target. Now is the time for brands to make a change.

The 4G Growth Engine

As gender roles become increasingly dynamic and stereotypes become less and less relevant, men are searching for brands that do not attempt to label them, but instead help them to curate their own version of masculinity. Isabela de Mello of IDEO explains, “Many men are figuring out that what they were raised to be no longer works, and society has not yet stepped in to support proper alternatives. Men are looking for options that appeal to their identities, roles, and behaviors.” There are many more options for men today, and a variety of resources for men to learn about and purchase new items. What is missing is an authentic, personal, and cohesive to-market strategy that reflects the changing habits and identities of the modern man.

As an industry, companies have spent decades understanding and cultivating women’s needs, and educating them about the consequences of not using their products. From serums to primers to peels, women today have complex regimens that address a laundry list of needs and consequences that feel authentic and necessary. However, the industry has not communicated with men in this way. Currently, men see no consequences if they do not use grooming products. Through this research, it has become clear that the road to growth is not through another purchase model. The industry needs a movement.

The 4G Growth Engine includes four key pillars, represented by gears, which are critical to success in men’s grooming. This new model addresses the authentic needs and habits of the male consumer, leveraging the people and places that matter to him most, with a communication style reflective of the modern face of masculinity to help drive him towards a more sophisticated grooming routine.

Ignite: The first gear is based on igniting the movement with an authentic approach to men’s needs. While women are driven by the idea of “hope in a jar,” men are driven by the need to look powerful and experienced, both of which are only complemented by gray hair and fine lines. Brands must ignite men’s interest by identifying authentic needs and genuine consequences. When a coach of the Florida Gators football team discovered that his players were being negatively affected by heat related illnesses, he worked with a team of researchers to create a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage that would replace the key components lost by players through dehydration (, 2014). Gatorade has since ignited the loyalty of thirsty athletes and civilians alike with this simple solution to a genuine problem, commanding 46% of the worldwide sports drink market (Forbes, 2014). Gatorade is an excellent example of a brand that has successfully targeted an authentic, universal, yet previously untapped need.

In grooming, brands often assume that men’s needs are the same as women’s, missing a major opportunity to appeal to their unique drivers. Dr. Ivona Percec, Professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, reports that the most common reason men request Botox is not that they fear looking older, but that they had been told they looked angry and feared that as a consequence it would hold them back professionally (Hart, 2014). By truly understanding men’s authentic needs and the consequences associated with these needs, brands have the ability to ignite long-term trust and loyalty.

Steer: The second gear of the 4G Growth Engine is to steer men to more sophisticated grooming purchases by leveraging the influential people and places that help to shape their decision-making process.