Manly Packaging

  • The attitude toward beauty and grooming products for men is shifting globally, meaning a larger opportunity for male-oriented products. However, specific packaging and product elements still attract men better.
  • Men typically like their products to be straightforward, uncomplicated, easy to use, bold and relevant. It’s a brand’s job to figure out how these attributes fit into the brand, and then how the brand’s products can communicate these values.

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.

The redesign also features a color slider to clearly differentiate the ranges and act as a marker on shelves for the variety of products and their purposes. “It’s colorful, simple, elegant and obvious,” Guillou notes. The color markers include the product name and important information about each product’s benefits, helping customers efficiently pick out the product they need. “The brand is now more visible, cleaner, more pure and more structured, [highlighting] its performance and technical aspects,” explains Guillou.

Keep It Comfortable

Men are loyal shoppers. But overcoming the hurdle to get the product into men’s hands requires research. Brands that don’t understand men and cater only to “caveman instincts” will likely miss out on a huge opportunity.

Launched in July 2010, Eufora Hero for Men’s sales have doubled year over year, excluding initial launch revenue. But it was a slow go in the beginning, as the brand worked within the salon professional market to embrace the opportunity that men provide for salon category growth. “We started with taking the time to really understand the male consumer—his specific hair, scalp and skin needs,” says Beth Bewley, co-founder of Eufora Hero. “And we worked with salons to identify ways they could adapt their traditional female salon environments to accommodate men and make them feel comfortable making a purchase there.”

The brand conducted market research on the men’s grooming segment and the changing attitudes of men toward personal care products and grooming. “In line with Eufora’s core principles and values, Hero delivers on what men find most important in their product purchases: ease of use, straightforward in their intended use, multi-use and the incorporation of cutting-edge science—all delivered in a masculine package,” says Bewley.

“Men want less bling and more functionality and sensibility,” Bewley continues. Thus, Hero’s color palette in shades of blue, green and maroon muted jewel tones are complemented by gunmetal gray for a refined look that won’t turn men off. “We incorporated a little punch by utilizing the latest in printing trends with the use of matte-finished foil substrates,” Bewley notes. “The Hero packaging distinguished itself from other men’s retail brands as a sophisticated brand, one that commands confidence. Those who can afford a higher-quality product want the packaging to reflect that and will feel good about the purchase.”

Keep It Functional

Packaging is about positioning and first impression as well as function. Because men’s hands are typically larger than women’s, features that make them easy for men to handle are important, such as a wide surface area on the actuator and a matte finish that is easier to grip. They also should be designed to make products convenient to access and dispense.

EvolutionMan aims to help men simplify their routines with multipurpose products that are easy to use. The brand’s simple approach to functional packaging makes it very man-friendly. The wide ovals fit comfortably in men’s hands, yet can easily sit on the counter top or be thrown in a gym bag, and durability is an important feature because men tend to travel with their products.

EvolutionMan founder Marco Berardini chose oval tubes with flip caps because men’s grooming is often done in the shower. “The flip cap makes it convenient and quick to get the product out and then close when finished, and the oval shape makes it easy to store on even the thinnest of shelves, and even the lip of the bath,” he explains. The clean lines and minimal artwork also are discreet and modern.

The development of new male-oriented formulas, too, leads to an increase in demand for alternative dispensing technologies. Brand owners are increasingly finding performance, precision and protection provided by airless packaging solutions. L’Oréal’s Biotherm Homme Hydra Detox moisturizer, Unilever’s Williams Expert shaving gel, Lavera’s hydrating cream, Korres’ anti-wrinkle and firming eye cream, and Matas Eye Gel are a few of the recent retail launches using solutions from Mega Airless. The airless dispensers help protect formulas and extend shelf life. “Airless packaging delivers formula protection, precise dosing and is a little gadgety to appeal to the high performance-minded, gadget guy,” says Harry Blacklock, Mega Airless’ director of sales and marketing, North America. “Ergonomically, they feel right to a male end-user and encourage a grooming routine that can be followed every day.”

Brands in the men’s grooming category also are trying to add to the basic personal care building blocks with more products that provide benefits and a sense of “masculine indulgence.” “These flanker products are usually task-specific, and need to be distinguished with functional packaging [to become an] addition in a man’s typical routine,” says Blacklock.

Keep It On Trend

The fashion industry is continuously obsessed with vintage and so is pop culture. Inspired by traditions of gentlemen’s barbers, some men’s products are reminiscent of a time when men considered grooming a ritual rather than a chore [For more on this topic, read “Insights to Men’s Grooming."]. “It’s a kind of paradox because on one hand, we have a strong return to rituals,” says Brandimage’s Guillou. “On the other hand, men are more pragmatic. They expect specific and immediate results.”

The barbershop trend blends the masculine traditions of a long-standing industry with contemporary style, giving brands personality and value. An example of this in action is Badricks Skincare Inc., which launched in late 2013 from Matthew Dank and Seth Lombardi, who were looking to fill a niche for a product that would help men with beards have a softer facial hair and more hydrated skin.

The brand is built on the philosophy that every man should enjoy having all types of facial hair by removing the growth period redness and itch, as well as maintaining their facial hair with the right products. “We wanted to create a brand that harkens back to a simpler time but would remain relevant throughout all the societal and culture changes we experience—what someone would have used in 1800 and will still in 2300,” explains Lombardi.

Badricks’ packaging is a throwback to that simpler time. According to the co-founders, vintage appeals to the male market right now because gimmicks and colors have gotten out of control, and men find this off-putting. The brand’s research shows that when there is a big deal made about packaging, more often than not, men will not buy it because it looks too “girly.” “Men want something they can keep in the medicine chest—or gym bag—that fits with their toothbrush and other accoutrements,” says Lombardi.

By using colors and tones that are recognized by men, Badricks’ co-founders—both of whom are fans of vintage ads and steam punk—say men are drawn to the packaging. “Men respond to it due to the fact that it’s 100% masculine gimmick-free,” explains Dank. “It is clean, simple but strong and reassuring,” adds Lombardi.

Badricks models its marketing after that which is used in traditionally male-oriented segments/markets, such as beer, tools and men’s underwear. “The reason that they sell is there are no gimmicks, just the plain truth,” notes Dank. “Simple, to the point.”

Keep it Eco-friendly

The use of eco-friendly packaging is an important factor across the beauty market, and that includes for men’s products. As a leader in men’s small batch skin care products, packaging designers at grooming brand Taun envisioned a unique canister that would showcase their men’s premium facial repair formula. Working with Custom Paper Tubes, Taun went away from traditional boxes for its high-end formulas to a custom-labeled tubular package with a lid typically used on high-end liquors. Custom Paper Tubes works with many green and cause-oriented product lines because of its highly recyclable, environmentally friendly packaging materials and non-toxic glues.

As such, Custom Paper Tubes also recently produced a three-piece telescope container for use with a men’s line of cologne and skin care, featuring a Kraft outer wrap and metal ends as a custom container for a secondary packaging that is as natural and rugged. The seamed-on metal ends, along with a dual-wall construction, protect the glass bottle inside and double as an attractive, manly retail package. Adhesive labels are applied to the Kraft brown outside of the containers to differentiate the various all-natural products packaged inside.

Enabling brands to communicate their own green message to a market that is no longer niche but mainstream, eco-friendly materials are practical for any natural or outdoorsy lines looking toward the future.

Keep It Yours

Personalized packaging is another avenue that allows a brand’s personality to stand out on the shelf while also uniting the line to articulate its simplicity, performance and quality through clean graphics, concise product descriptions and visual identity (using color, shape or graphics) that carries across multiple product types and sizes. Combined with global customization capabilities, dispensing solutions that can be enhanced, modified or completely redesigned as a different package to fit the look and feel brands require are key. “The adaptability of a package to fit brand identity is a valuable incentive,” said Des McEttrick, market development director for North American beauty, Aptar. Aptar’s Eden airless collection is just one example, as it offers multiple size and actuator options that can be sleek and feminine or understated but bold for men. “It all depends on what style and tone you are trying to achieve,” says McEttrick.

Every brand is going to tell a different story. Doing so with packaging can mean choosing a shape and function to fit a concept that is simple or elaborate, easy to use or more advanced, luxury or understated. “It’s quite instinctive to inject personality into the brand to make it interesting for the consumer,” says Bulldog’s Grace. Take a cue from other industries or categories that use packaging to help create a unique brand. “Whiskey, for example, does a fantastic job of creating beautiful packaging, very clear labeling and tactile packaging that tells a story that appeals to men,” Grace notes.

The nutritional supplement and sports nutrition industries is another place to look for inspiration. These packages feature a lot of dark container colors and bold graphics. “In addition to the amber, blue and dark green bottles that are already popular in men’s personal care packaging, bold colors such as red, orange, yellow, silver and black are all colors that men’s personal care companies should be exploring,” says Alpha’s Bielefeldt.

“There’s always room for innovation and doing things differently,” comments Grace. “There is a huge opportunity here, and I hope we are making the most of it—to stand out, to be iconic in our own way.”

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.

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