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Manly Packaging

By: Sara Mason
Posted: February 21, 2014, from the March 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

The men’s grooming segment has traditionally moved at a slower pace than the overall beauty market due to perception and demand, but as the segment continues its steady ascent, engaging and understanding the consumer is key. It’s a new man now, who buys his own products and places a higher level of importance on his appearance than before. He’s staying single longer, retiring later and is more likely to have a white collar career. Due to the evolving dynamics of society and the workplace, he also is less likely to carry the stigma of using hair and skin products.

However, while a striking package attracts them, what connects with men differs greatly from what inspires a woman. It’s not a simple transformation of changing colors, fonts or packaging. Brands that understand the male consumer can communicate their brand story clearly with comfortable colors, masculine shapes and uncomplicated messages.

Keep It Real

Modern men are much more sophisticated than some brands think they are, and they will ultimately see through a superficial, cookie-cutter approach. “Most brands ‘for men’ are not connecting with men,” says Ben Grace, marketing director, Bulldog Skincare for Men. “Men are put off by imagery and language that is too elaborate.”

Instead, Bulldog, a popular U.K. men’s brand, steers away from “pseudoscientific” terms that overcomplicate an uncomplicated category. The language used is simple and to the point. “We talk to men the way they talk to each other,” explains Grace. Bulldog’s packages feature a short description of the product, along with what it does and the key ingredients.

“Some men’s brands seem to struggle with arranging their messaging, so they throw all the information on the package,” notes Grace. On the back of each Bulldog product, the brand encourages people to find out more about the listed ingredients by visiting its website for full information—including the source of the ingredient and their primary function in the product. “We try to be as transparent as we can,” says Grace.

Competing with multinational companies with significant marketing budgets, Bulldog knows it has to use the shelf as its billboard. “The packaging deliberately disrupts the category by being different,” Grace says. “When we looked at the category as a whole, we found a sea of sameness.” Bulldog packaging inverts the usual visuals, featuring an oversized dark logo on white packaging.

Brands that are light-hearted also typically resonate with consumers, and especially men. Using humor in marketing campaigns, such as Benefit’s tongue-in-cheek videos and Lynx/Axe’s use of double entendres, packaging that doesn’t take itself too seriously breaks down a barrier created by some men’s continued discomfort in discussing personal care products. Bulldog, too, injects a bit of humor on its packaging, sharing its personality with consumers.

And while competitors use good-looking models with chiseled jaws and six-packs, Bulldog primarily uses its namesake mascot. “It’s not nature’s prettiest beast, but he’s man’s best friend,” says Grace.

Thus, avoiding a cookie-cutter approach by purpose-building its brand for men, Bulldog was able to expand to 13 different countries worldwide since its 2007 launch.

Keep It Simple

Packaging is crucial in men’s grooming because men are not as likely to comparison shop. While women often invest time in comparing brands and labels, male consumers like to be able to recognize the brand, function and benefits of the product right away. “They like to get in and get out, buying only the items they entered the store to purchase,” says Marny Bielefeldt, director of marketing, Alpha Packaging. “Men are more likely to pick up the first product that grabs their attention through the shape and color of the bottle and that answers their questions through clear, concise graphics and label content.”

It was this attitude that inspired a complete relaunch of Lierac Homme. The French brand reformulated and repackaged its high-tech skin care for men with a premium positioning. Designed by Brandimage, the packages feature masculine colors and an understated, high-tech structure in black and silver to unite the entire line on store shelves. It’s not just any black, however. “The black is tinted. It’s got brown in it so it is warm and comfortable,” says Marine Guillou, senior brand strategist, Brandimage.