Masculinity is a hot topic, especially in the world of marketing. And gender neutrality is increasingly being discussed in the social debate. At the same time, tough men with beards are still popular in the fashion image. From an evolutionary point of view this is not strange. The primal drive to reproduction as a survival strategy is simply ingrained in man. And that is reflected in our behaviour.
In September, an international team of researchers led by Swedish Tobias Otterbring at Karlstad University published an investigation that shows that men buy more from a masculine man. In a furniture store they observed that when there is a tall, athletically-built assistant at the entrance, male customers spend considerably more than if this male employee is not there. What is happening here and how can you benefit from it as a marketer?
Man, woman and psyche
The most plausible theory for this phenomenon is simple. Men spend more money in the presence of that male employee because they see him as a strong rival. This creates an inner competitive edge. In general, handsome, well-built men have more success; both financially and with the women. When the male customer is confronted with this he unconsciously tries to boost his status by showing that he has money. That is why this behaviour is only observed in men. Women did not change their pattern of purchase after seeing a masculine man in this study. They use other ways to impress potential partners or rivals.
After the observations in the store, follow-up research was done in a controlled environment. Pictures of men were used, which looked stronger or fitter, or less fit, and here too it turned out that men, after seeing such a strong rival, chose more expensive clothes with larger logos. In fact, the reaction was mainly seen in men with a shorter body length. Again, women didn’t have this reaction.
Women do not buy more expensive furniture or clothing with larger logos when they see a tall, strong man. Yet it evokes a reaction that becomes visible in a different setting. The same researcher, Tobias Otterbring, previously conducted a similar study among women. They looked at how women in a restaurant reacted to an attractive man. It showed that in the presence of a man they find attractive, women are more inclined to choose healthy products from the menu. This can be explained by the fact that women want to attract the man by having a beautiful and healthy appearance, and healthy nutrition contributes to this. Although the research was specifically about menu choice, it is likely that the effect also applies to cosmetics or other beauty products.
Masculine man: application within marketing
All very interesting, but what can you do with this? Well, luckily you do not have to immediately look for tall, handsome employees. Since the follow-up research with photos yielded the same results, you can say that the competitive drive of men is also fueled when seeing images. An interesting fact that you can take into account in advertisements.
If you have a male audience, you can use images of these tough, athletic men in your design. It is plausible that this is especially effective at the actual moment of purchase. It may not be the case for advertisements aimed at awareness. But make sure you have that masculine man on posters in your store, that he is in the picture on your website when the customer views product pages, and when the shopping basket is being viewed. For a female target group these principles apply especially when you sell cosmetics or health products.
If you consider deliberately putting handsome men in your store, or putting your longest sales employee on the account of shorter male customers, be careful with that. Of course this is not an ethical basis for your recruitment anyway. In addition, this approach has a direct downside. Although the effect has been proven for that one shop visit, the customer may go home with a bad feeling and not come back. And then you can say goodbye to your profits.