Guys and Dollars: How Groceries, Barbies, Fashion and More Are Being Marketed to Men

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Word has gotten out that men do more of the household shopping nowadays. Accordingly, we’re being asked to shop in “man aisles” in supermarkets, and we’re even being subjected to an awful new made-up term: “mansumer.”

Blame the global media agency network BPN for “mansumer,” a term that, thankfully, hasn’t really caught on. Nonetheless, in a study released during the holiday season, BPN described the rising importance of male consumers to the full range of retailers:

40% of men are now the primary grocery shopper in the household; 44% of men say they equally share in housecleaning and a whopping 86% of men agree being a man equals doing what is necessary to keep the household running. And that includes buying the holiday gifts.

In recent times, men have been asked to consider all sorts of products that have been traditionally been marketed more toward women, including “manly” diet soda and cosmetics and makeup—or rather, the preferred, less girly term, male “grooming gear.”

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The appeal to reach guys—and their dollars—is now extending to the spectrum of products for the household. Now it’s not as if men are incapable of purchasing laundry detergent or groceries, or perhaps just a pair of jeans for themselves. Despite our portrayal on beer commercials, we’re not monosyllabic barbarians (not all of the time, anyway). Even so, marketers feel like they have to make the extra effort to reach the dude demographic. Here are a few of the latest examples:

You’d think that supermarkets were basically gender neutral, right? Well, because moms have done the vast majority of family grocery shopping historically, a disproportionate number of products sold in supermarkets have been marketed to appeal specifically to women and children. Yet, as a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story noted, surveys now show that the percentage of total grocery men now done by men has more than doubled since the ’80s—and supermarkets and food manufacturers have taken note.

More products are featuring packaging meant to appeal to men and women alike, and some stores and markets are exploring the idea of creating “man aisles,” which might be special sections packed with hot sauce, jerky, batteries, beer, and other products that no guy would be ashamed to buy. But such aisles may come across as silly, perhaps even insulting, to, say, the man who loves to cook for his wife or girlfriend. “We’ve talked to a lot of retailers who are trying to understand what to do, trying to understand what a ‘man aisle’ truly is,” Phil Lempert of told the paper. “It’s really more about understanding men’s health and nutritional needs than putting out lighter fluid and beer. If you look at the canned tomato section, you’re seeing information about how lycopene is important to ward off prostate cancer.”

Chrysler‘s new Town and Country S is supposed to be the “macho” minivan with an overall “noir theme,” according to USA Today. Inside and out, the vehicle is decked in black—black-chrome grille, black inserts on 17-inch wheels, black-leather seats and black-leather steering wheel. The message seems to be: If Bruce Wayne was a middle-class family man, this is the minivan he would drive. And hey, if the Dark Knight can drive a minivan, so can you.

Laundry Detergent
An NFL quarterback featured on a bottle of Tide? Now that men are handling more household chores (and handling the shopping that goes along with those chores), Procter & Gamble has launched a marketing initiative for its Tide laundry detergent especially for guys. “Tide Plus Febreze Sport” now comes “with victory fresh scent,” as well as a picture of Drew Brees on the bottle, complete with a manly black top—just in case any dudes were worried they’d bought chick detergent. Also for the first time ever, TV commercials for Tide actually show husbands doing the laundry.

(MORE: Closing the Chore Gap)

Scented Candles
Earlier this year, Yankee Candle made news with the introduction of a line of limited-edition men’s candles, available in fragrances such as Riding Mower (smells like cut grass), 2 X 4 (sawdust), and Man Town (the odor of a man cave—which I’ve always assumed would mean musty basement and stale beer). Businessweek reported that Yankee Candle is just one of several companies getting into the men’s candle—or “mandle”—business.

A jeans shop in Seattle called Hointer is attempting what seems like an uphill battle: getting guys to actually enjoy shopping for clothes. An Economist story described the store’s approach, which basically makes in-store shopping quick, simple, and easy—and a lot like online shopping:

Hointer has no over-solicitous sales assistants, no confusing piles of clothes and no endless lines at the tills. Instead, only one of each style of jeans is displayed on the shop floor. Shoppers use a smartphone app to scan items they wish to try on, and choose a size and colour.

After a pair of jeans is ordered digitally, a robotic arm retrieves the specified item and drops it in a dressing room—all in roughly 30 seconds. Purchasing can be completed with the swipe of a credit card, meaning, just like online shopping, the transaction can take place without having to interact with another human being.

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Because more dads were buying the toys during the recent holiday season, Barbie sets got a makeover, according to a New York Times piece. Barbie construction sets were being sold for the first time ever, with the idea that dads would be more likely to play by way of helping to build Barbie’s luxury mansion. Of course, dads would be more inclined to buy such products, as well, even if they are still draped in pink.