The Manscape

Economic and cultural trends transform the demo—but guys are just as manly as ever

The tube remains a female-dominant medium, with women 18-49 watching 11 hours more linear TV per month than men in the same demo (148 hours versus 137 hours), according to Nielsen. Of the 44 new series that premiered over the course of the 2011-12 broadcast season, only three skewed more male than female: Terra Nova, Napoleon Dynamite and Allen Gregory. All three aired on Fox, and all three were canceled.

Leading consumer magazines like Men’s Health, Hearst’s Esquire, Time’s Sports Illustrated, Condé Nast’s GQ and Wenner Media’s Men’s Journal continue to struggle with weakened demand for print advertising, reporting either flat or down ad page volume in the first six months of this year versus the same period last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau stats.

At the same time, Fairchild Fashion Media, a unit of Condé Nast, this month will revive the affluent-focused men’s fashion title M, which was put on ice during the recession of the early ’90s. Likewise, Men’s Health’s high-end lifestyle spinoff Best Life, which folded in 2009, will be relaunched next month.

It makes sense that media targeted to men are focusing more on lifestyle, considering that men’s own motivations have shifted.

Could the epidemic of workaholism be a thing of the past? In its most recent ManScan Study, a collaboration with the research company GfK Roper, Men’s Health found that ambition and career success are much less important to guys now.

In an online survey this past spring of more than 3,000 men 18-65, respondents were asked to identify “traits that you strongly or moderately aspire to.” Rather than signaling more material or hard-core career pursuits, a majority of men opted to describe themselves as well-rounded, easygoing and open to new ideas. “Being well-rounded is another way for men to be prepared today and to deal with the new economy,” explains Cary Silvers, director of consumer insights and advertising trends at Rodale.

The recent economic downturn certainly has become the checkmate in society’s role-shifting chess game, and a leading cause for men’s need to adapt. (Remember the “Mancession”?) Even though the equalization of household duties and shared familial responsibilities has been on the rise since the women’s movement of the 1960s, it has become more pronounced in the recent past, impacting households far beyond merely who shops for groceries or does the dishes.

“In every life stage for men now, they have to be on par with women since the likelihood is both in the relationship are working,” says Andrew Beveridge, a demographer and professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “You have a situation where men have to be involved with products, where they used to be left to the domain of the woman.”

According to media consultancy Jacobs Media’s Marketing to Men survey, more than 70 percent of married men and better than half of married women agree or strongly agree that men, whether married or single, are more involved with household shopping than ever before.

“The shopping profile of single males is very similar to women, and 31 percent of males are single,” notes Paul Jacobs, general manager of Jacobs Media. “When you picture a single male, you think of a 26-year-old single guy. But with 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce in this country, demographically speaking the single male is not [only made up of the] young.”

The shift in who does the grocery shopping, and attitudes about it, are particularly telling. The ManScan Study found that 48 percent of men do an equal share of food shopping as women, and 74 percent of men signal that they are “completely happy” about it. Like women, men are using their laptops, tablets and smartphones to comparison shop. According to the study, 72 percent of men check prices online before making a purchase while 56 percent read online reviews before heading to the store.

Meanwhile, another study, this one by the market research firm uSamp, found this month that men are even more active users of mobile when shopping than women are (45 percent of men polled have made a mobile purchase, versus 34 percent of women)—with a larger percentage of men versus women buying products including luxury goods, food and drinks, consumer electronics, office supplies, and digital content. (Women purchase more health and beauty products via mobile.) The study also found that 91 percent of males have scanned a barcode using a mobile device compared to 85 percent of women.

While men are becoming more active shoppers—and many brands have tailored their messages to that trend—still other marketers and retailers seem to have failed to notice, especially the supermarket chains.

“Despite all of the evidence, the food markets for the most part still continue to talk to women almost exclusively,” Rodale’s Silvers points out. “Even children sometimes appear to have a greater vote from a marketer’s perspective than men do.”

Most grocery stores are still designed to attract the female shopper—never mind the emergence of the “man aisle.” As detailed this summer everywhere from The Huffington Post to The Village Voice to The Los Angeles Times, aisles stocked with traditionally male-oriented products (think Tabasco sauce, six packs of beer, charcoal briquettes, Trojan condoms) are springing up in national chains and smaller local retailers alike.

Jacobs calls man aisles a “ridiculous” idea, while adding that they are at least a sign retailers are acknowledging male customers. But if supermarkets truly wanted to attract men, they would do well to follow the media’s cue and “daypart” their stores, Jacobs proposes—“change the music and other things at various times when men typically shop, to enhance their experience.”

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