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Evolving Gender Stereotypes Drive Growth in Asian Men’s Personal Care

By: Liz Grubow and Alan Kastner
Posted: November 30, 2011, from the December 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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International brands are often the preferred choice for Asian men, commonly believed to be of a higher quality and status than domestic brands. Procter & Gamble’s Olay for Men exclusively launched in China, and has experienced remarkable success among urban consumers, helping Olay to achieve resonance with male consumers across Asia in other beauty categories as well. Olay Men Solutions launched in 2011, offering a Multi Solution Eye Gel designed as a one-step solution to reduce dark circles and signs of aging. A Multi-Solution Revitalizing Cream also launched under the Olay brand this year in Thailand and Singapore, to address signs of skin fatigue with vitamins and ginseng extract.

Western-style marketing techniques accompany these Western brands in Asia, including outdoor billboards, television ads and print ads in men’s fashion magazines, which are an increasingly pervasive presence, particularly in urban centers. High fashion labels and Chinese editions of Esquire and GQ are important signifiers of wealth and social status. Included in these pages are cosmetic advice from experts and references to other male celebrities embracing male beauty, such as Huang Xiaoming, an Olay for Men’s brand ambassador in China.

Interestingly, the engagement level for male grooming products for consumers in lower socioeconomic classes living in rural communities is not as pervasive but is becoming more acceptable among younger generations. Many of these consumers show preferences toward domestic brands, particularly those brands that employ strategies that recognize regional differences in language and religion.

Even with these advances, the Asian male still remains largely underserved, accounting for less than 1% of the total beauty market. With sales figures continuing to climb, beauty brand owners and industry professionals can expect to see significant investment in innovation and new product launches in the next five years, particularly from international or foreign manufacturers. As spending for personal care products continues to penetrate the rising middle class, this dynamic category will see more introductions at mass, and innovation will likely focus on the specific needs and evolving preferences of the Asian male consumer.

Liz Grubow is vice president and group creative director of LPK Beauty. In her 20-plus-year career, Grubow has helped develop and manage brand identity programs for some of the world’s most successful beauty brands—including Pantene, Olay, MAX Factor International and Cover Girl.