At first blush, the idea of makeup products for men sounds laughable. And yet men’s cosmetics and grooming products are among the fastest-growing segments in the beauty industry. What’s key to rising sales is that the M word is never mentioned. Instead of the term makeup, marketers use phrases such as facial fuel and urban camouflage to convince guys the products are sufficiently manly — and the strategy is working.
According to a Los Angeles Times’ story covering the growth of men’s cosmetics in the marketplace, more and more guys are willing to drop good money to care for their skin. Men’s toiletry sales are expected to hit $2.6 billion this year, up from $2.2 billion in 2006, and $3.2 billion in annual sales is anticipated as soon as 2016.
The most successful men’s beauty products do their darnedest to stay away from any colors and terminology that are remotely girly. Blacks and blues replace pinks and golds. Packaging may resemble cigar boxes or liquor bottles rather than anything their wives or girlfriends might pick up at the department-store makeup counter. Just as important, the names of products sound more like it’d be O.K. to utter them in a guy’s locker room without (too much) embarrassment. Some of the product names even sound like maneuvers on the field of battle, or perhaps plays shouted out in a football huddle.
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Jack Black, a company specializing in men’s skin care, offers antiaging packages with names like “the Defensive Line” and “Repeat Defender.” The words power and boost are repeated in several products, ostensibly to “make up” for the fact that moisturizer, cream and antiaging don’t sound particularly macho. You’re probably wondering about the name Jack Black too: it has nothing to do with the actor. The company’s founders picked it before Black grew to worldwide fame because it “sounded like the quintessential guy’s-guy kind of name. It’s the kind of name that guys would feel comfortable telling their buddies about — it doesn’t feel feminine or fussy.”
Another men’s cosmetics maker, Menaji, which, honestly, sounds fairly feminine even if it starts with men, sells a line of CAMO Urban Camouflage. It’s intended to cover up wrinkles, blemishes and “discolored areas” just as makeup does, yet it comes in a black (manly color) tube the size and shape of a ChapStick (a skin-care product that has been culturally acceptable for men to use for years). Perhaps most important, Menaji promises that the product is “discreet” and “undetectable,” ensuring users that no one will know they’re wearing makeup, or rather, urban camouflage.
An NPD Group study released a few months ago reported that sales of men’s facial-skin-care products grew 11% last year, compared with 2010. Even so, the vast majority of men don’t use these products, so it’s up to creative marketers to convince them they’re doing something wrong if they aren’t wearing makeup:
“There is a huge opportunity with men for facial skincare. The challenge is getting them involved and engaged,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst, for the NPD Group. “Seventy-five percent of men ages 18 and up are not currently using facial skincare products. There is a feeling that facial skincare products are not needed unless you have a specific skin problem such as acne. For men to use a product, he first must be aware that there is an underlying need that requires addressing.”
To talk men into moisturizing, covering up and otherwise beautifying their skin, marketers are utilizing the same techniques they’ve used on women for years — playing off their insecurities. Morgan Spurlock, the famed documentarian behind the new male-beauty movie Mansome, says as much in a Q&A with TIME. When asked what he learned about how beauty products are marketed to men, Spurlock said:
I think what you start to realize is that men have been made to feel just as insecure as women have for decades. Now with the commodification of manliness, we’re seeing through advertisements and through magazines this idea that you’re too fat, you’re not good enough, you should look better, if you really want to get a woman this is what you should do.
“If you really want to get a woman” is the phrase that’s probably at the heart of most men’s cosmetics sales pitches. Men want to attract women so badly they’re willing to wear makeup, so long as they can kid themselves they’re not really wearing makeup. With the help of crafty marketers, of course.
That explains the growth of men’s cosmetics, at least partially. I’m not sure if there’s any explaining mantyhose, though.