If you happened to be at the House of Blues in New Orleans this past weekend, you could have had a glimpse of the National Beard and Moustache Championship, which awards trophies in 18 facial-hair categories from “Musketeer” to “Delicate Dali.”
But even those guys who didn’t show off their winning whiskers in The Big Easy are likely to notice an outgrowth of the event: the elevated profile of the men’s hair-coloring product Just For Men.
The 26-year-old brand signed on as the contest’s title sponsor this year, and while such events afford Just For Men an obvious opportunity for exposure, they also mark a significant refresh for the product’s image.
For years, Just For Men’s low-budget TV spots carried the whispered jingle: “It looks so natural, no one can tell.”
The implication, of course, was that having gray hair was, well…
“The word is stigma,” said Elisa Golim of the brand’s marketing team.
But Just For Men’s sponsorship of such contests signals that the once-taboo topic of male grooming continues to emerge from the shadows—and those brands that are hip to the trend stand to benefit in a big way. “Fifteen years ago, coloring gray was considered a feminine thing to do, but now it’s a completely new universe,” Golim said. “Men are not afraid of the topic anymore.”
Nor, clearly, is Just For Men. Last weekend’s contest was just the latest hirsute event the brand has been involved in.
Last month, it teamed up with opt-in activation platform Smiley360 to invite “guys who grow facial hair and keep life interesting” to submit photos of themselves to its Facebook page. Nearly 1,000 did, and 20,000 votes later, a group of semifinalists went on to make and submit videos starring their beards and moustaches.
The winner, an extravagantly bearded gentleman by the name of Fred Knowles, traveled to New Orleans for the House of Blues event on Just For Men’s dime.
Not only are these events good fun, they’re cheaper than a national TV spot.
Susan Frech, CEO of Social Media Link, which operates the Smiley360 platform, said there are serious marketing opportunities in the formerly hushed-up world of graying guys.
“Just For Men has gone from being a brand for divorced single dads trying to get back in the market to men who now say, ‘You know what? I color my hair!’” she said. “The brand wanted to salute those men and honor them. And if you add humor to it, it makes the subject easier to talk about.”
That was certainly true for the guys—gray and otherwise—who showed up at the House of Blues, where Just For Men featured a team of hair-coloring experts, along with a Facebook upload-equipped photo booth.
Graybeards, said Golim, “are seeing that they’re not alone.”