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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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With the exception of fragrance, 90% of men report that they make all or most of their own grooming purchases themselves (Bialik, 2011). Research shows three key categories of influencers: immediate family, peers, and significant others (Bialik, 2011). Immediate family members have the most influence in shaping early product decisions such as shaving, deodorant, and body wash.

Peers have a critical influencing role as a man grows up. The number one influencer in a man’s grooming purchase is observing a peer using a product (L'Oréal Men’s Grooming Report, 2010), making it essential for brands to target this group.

Significant others have proven most successful in motivating a man to try new categories (L'Oréal Men’s Grooming Report, 2010). These are the people that brands must educate and leverage to steer men towards more sophisticated products such as skin care. Not only do marketers need to understand men, it is also essential to understand what is driving these key influencers as well.

Jacqueline Nam, Marketing Manager of SK-II Men, shared research that suggests some women feel insecure when their partner tries to improve his looks. Brands should consider incentivizing women through male and female combined sets, loyalty cards, or GWPs in order to motivate them to encourage their partner to purchase men’s products. (Nam, Jacqueline 2014).

Brands can also steer men to purchase by being present where and when he needs a grooming solution. Men are not shopping for grooming products on the women’s cosmetics floor; 65% of purchases are currently being made at mass merchandisers, supercenters, warehouse clubs, dollar stores, and off-price retailers (Mintel, 2013). Men are driven by ease, access, and trust in their retail environment (Izquieta, 2012). For brick-and-mortar, brands can maximize presence and education efforts at local barbershops, gyms, airports, and clothing stores—environments where men feel comfortable, and are already thinking about their image.

E-commerce is also critical for men, highlighting their preference for ease and accessibility. Research shows that 41% of online shopping by affluent males is done on (Honigman, 2013). In May 2013, Amazon launched a men’s grooming shop featuring mass and prestige brands in the skin care, body care, and hair care categories. This strategy perfectly capitalizes on a man’s partiality to streamline the shopping journey as much as possible. Curated product selections support Amazon’s win in customer segmentation and exhibits potential to result in increased sales and market share. As the 2013 FIT Capstone research on Digital Commerce brought to light, it is necessary for brands today to encompass “convenience, technology, excellent customer service, and rapid delivery” (Voyten et al., 2013), and this is particularly true for men. If they lack resources to deploy this infrastructure themselves, brands should be aiming to partner with e-tailers such as Amazon and eBay to ensure they are truly steering men to purchase their products with the right value proposition and discoverability (Voyten et al., 2013).

Comparably, marketers must also think mobile-first design, with 68% of male smartphone users likely to make purchases thanks to mobile ads (Honigman, 2013). It is no surprise that subscription commerce services like Dollar Shave Club, Trunk Club, and Five Four Club are growing in popularity, as they allow men to get exactly what they need in a streamlined way (Izquieta, 2012). Rather than adding an extra step by creating another grooming specific offering, brands should consider partnering with fashion services to provide men the ability to purchase grooming in a place where they are already shopping.

Fuel: Next, brands must fuel the movement via imagery and communications that appeal to men on a personal level. New research has found that today, exaggerated male stereotypes have a negative impact on men’s willingness to try a product (Otnes & Tuncay-Zayer, 2012). In a recent survey, an astonishing 65% of men responded that, “No commercial portrayals of men are accurate” (Étienne, 2014). Companies must create campaigns centered on the modern depictions of realistic male roles, such as “The Dad”, the “Dedicated Partner,” and the “Open Minded Millennial.”

To promote their Chrome web browser, Google appealed to men’s softer side with an ad called “Dear Sophie,” which depicts a father sending his daughter photos, emails, and other memories in Gmail from the day she was born for her to read when she is older. By portraying technology as a facilitator of love, Google connected with men, not by highlighting technical benefits like speed or new apps, but by forging an emotional and relatable connection that appealed to men’s desire to be good fathers (Miller, 2011). In grooming, don’t hide the men. Men must be present in beauty and grooming campaigns and POS visuals at all touch points. Combining modern imagery reflective of the “new masculinity” with products that target authentic needs is key to fueling a more sophisticated men’s grooming market.

Accelerate: Once the male consumer has been engaged, the final gear of the 4G Growth Engine is to accelerate, helping him to move up a level on the hierarchy of grooming. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, brands must recognize the importance of understanding a man’s level of grooming sophistication when introducing a new product. In Maslow’s theory, a person makes their way up the pyramid by fulfilling each of the needs below (McLeod, 2007). For grooming, once a brand can capture a man’s loyalty with simple solutions to the most obvious needs, he will be ready for education on another solution to a slightly more complex need. Instead of overwhelming men by launching too many products at once, marketers should focus on one hero product at a time that addresses an authentic need, with immediate benefits that will give him a reason to believe. A smaller, more targeted product selection will help him feel like he is making an informed choice (Hardie, 2014).

Growth Implications

Today, there are 106 million men in the U.S. that fall into the key target demographic ages of 14-65. This group is estimated to use only one product per day with a repurchase rate of approximately five times per year, creating a market size of $5.7 billion (Euromonitor, 2013). With a current growth rate of 1.8% per year, the market is projected to reach $7.6 billion by 2030 (Euromonitor, 2013).

By implementing the 4G Growth Engine, the market growth potential is significantly greater. By 2030, there will be 120 million men in the U.S. ages 14-65 (DemographicsNow, 2014). If we are able to increase their yearly product purchase number from five to seven, at an average of $10 each, the U.S. market will reach $10 billion, 30% greater than projected. This represents a tremendous opportunity for brands to grow their bottom line.

Industry Recommendations

In the 4G Growth Engine, the four gears symbolize a network of interdependent actions, all requisite to accelerating the men’s movement. Without all gears in place, the machine can’t operate at all. But this model is only a subset of the industry as a whole. The $70 billion U.S. beauty and personal care category took hundreds of years to build, and the men’s grooming movement will not happen overnight (Euromonitor, 2014). Men’s grooming cannot flourish within a silo; the industry as a whole must be the driving force to put the gears into motion. We recommend brands take the following actions to cultivate a beauty landscape where men are a major part of the equation:

  • First, we must invest in male specific research. We have created research centers to understand consumers in Asia, Europe, and South America. Men make up half the human population, and yet we have not invested in understanding their unique needs beyond the basics. A male specific research center is a crucial first step in helping men to feel valued, understood, and involved in grooming.
  • Second, we must include men. Don’t hide the men. We must showcase men front and center in all of our beauty campaigns, not just for men’s brands. It’s time to promote a culture where it’s normal to associate men with beauty. This strategy helped cultivate the men’s grooming boom in Korea in 2003, when men began to be utilized in beauty campaigns both alone and alongside women. In this way, men were led by example. Using relatable male images in brand visuals will help to cultivate a culture where it’s normal to associate men with beauty.
  • Finally, our brand communication must interact with men in an authentic way. While women buy hope, men buy authenticity. We must speak to them in their own language, using imagery and brand communications that appeal to men’s dynamic roles and genuine drivers. Dollar Shave Club is leading this charge by making men’s lives easier with a high quality, inexpensive product delivered seamlessly without ever setting foot in a store. Their viral video avoids stereotypes, but instead appeals to men by being funny, smart, and business-savvy, reaching them in a place where they already are—YouTube.


The state of masculinity is at a tipping point, creating an enormous opportunity for brands to finally get men’s grooming right. Imagine a future where men are as comfortable shopping for grooming products as women; where men see relatable images reflected back at them in retail channels and advertisements; where men have an authentic need and desire for grooming products and use them to curate their own version of masculinity.