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The power of the purse is losing ground to the weight of the wallet, and a new breed of male consumer is emerging, according to Defy Media's second annual "Acumen Report: Brand New Man." More than 2,000 men ages 18–49 participated in the study to voice opinions on how they spark a relationship with a new brand, research products and make purchasing decisions across a wide variety of categories including alcohol, snacks and grooming products.
The study reveals an empowered male consumer who is taking charge of the household shopping duties and making thoughtful decisions when it comes to the brands he brings home. More than 65% now hold primary shopping responsibility for several household product categories, with 67% disclosing they actually enjoy shopping for the household and close to 63% open to choosing new brands.
According to the report, male stereotypes appear to diminish as the roles and responsibilities of men continue evolve—more than half (54%) of married men surveyed say they shop for groceries and household supplies more often than their spouses. Many of these men also find themselves on their own in the grocery store as well; 53% said their spouses do not tell them what brands to buy.
Acumen's 2012 inaugural report found the majority of men are no longer deterred by traditional gender stereotypes, with more than two-thirds (68%) of men willing to sacrifice career advancement for more time with family and more than 90% of men expressing that part of being a man is taking care of family and those around you. The male identity appears to have shifted from the stereotypical "macho" persona to what the 2012 study deemed the "modern mensch," a multi-dimensional and good-hearted individual with family-oriented priorities. This year's results follow suit with men's overall purchasing decisions led by careful consideration and meaning. Men are not taking their new found responsibilities lightly as they embark on a uniquely male approach to discovering and building new brand relationships.
"Men have earned their place as decision makers in the household. In this year's report, we uncovered the process that men embark on to discover, connect with, and purchase new brands and products," said Andy Tu, executive vice president of marketing for Defy Media. "We found that men are not only purchasing in greater numbers, but in many cases they are the ones actually making the brand decisions."
Men need to be prompted into action in order to begin this journey for a new product. This can be sparked by a significant life change, a problem that needs a solution, a new category introduction or a cultural trend, such as the desire to live a healthier lifestyle. They get their cues from a variety of sources, but friends and family still wield the most influence with digital connections coming in close behind, especially with the younger generation.
Once interest is piqued, men go through an extensive research-and-trial process to find a product that meets certain criteria and values—and that reflect who they are. He's looking for his brand soul mate and is willing to experiment in order to find a perfect match, even asking for help to get there. Frequently portrayed as the less communicative gender, this modern consumer is also openly seeking advice, with an average 32% asking store employees for guidance and some 45% turning to friends or family.
While tried and true sometimes trumps the pursuit of something new and unknown—about 35% report relying on a "go-to" brand—close to 63% are open to trying a new brand, revealing significant opportunity for brands to forge that potential lasting loyalty.
Overall, men actively gather data on brands by seeking out advice from experts, friends and family both in person and online, through social media and online reviews. This holds true even for every day household products and grooming choices.
The findings show that men are also not immune to cultural trends and are proving to be more thoughtful consumers when it comes to purchasing decisions. Men appear to be painstakingly researching products before they buy and seem to be influenced by companies and brands that align with their values and appeal to them in a meaningful way. For this modern mensch, sometimes the little things count.
"I will look at local as well; if there are local brands, I try and support [them]," commented survey participant Derrick of Orlando, Florida. "That's just for the economy and trying to help out what's happening nearby."
Once men find a new product that fits their lifestyle and a brand that aligns with their values, they are sharing their opinions and recommending the product or brand. This new communicator appears more comfortable expressing himself and is showing a propensity for pronouncing newfound loyalties through his social connections in person and online.
"It is clear that the traditional notion of men as consumers is changing. The idea that men are mindless, robotic or powerless in their decisions about shopping and brand decisions is antiquated," stated Tu. "The road ahead for marketers to embrace and engage this new era of masculinity proves to be challenging, but those that build a relationship will ultimately reap the benefit."
The Acumen report is based on a one-week online discussion board with 36 men and teens, three-hour ethnographic interviews with 22 men and teens in Orlando, Chicago and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and a 20-minute online survey conducted in August 2013 of 2,000 men ages 18–49 representative of the U.S. male population by age, marital status and education. Product categories included in the study are beer, liquor, chips, soda, candy, grooming, PC/mobile and automotive. Fieldwork was conducted in conjunction with vendor Hunter Qualitative Research.