The Manscape

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

While marketers have yet to perfect the art of reaching men in the canned goods section, they at least seem to have mastered selling them grooming products.

According to the research company NPD Group, nine out of 10 men now use some sort of grooming product, and more than 70 percent buy skincare products.

As noted, shaving hasn’t been fully ceded to the hipsters, with dollar sales of facial trimmers over the past year growing 13 percent. (It says something when, in his latest documentary Mansome, Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame shifts his attention from the Big Mac to manscaping.)

“From body wash to deodorant, men now take care of themselves in a different way than they have before—but you never hear the term ‘Metrosexual’ anymore because we all are [doing it],” Skeete says. “You don’t worry about how you are going to be perceived. I think the ads reflect that. Look at Old Spice.”

Wieden+Kennedy’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign for Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice, featuring the shirtless actor Isaiah Mustafa and his comically seductive baritone, became an instant classic—the first spot has been viewed more than 43 million times on YouTube while the campaign was parodied everywhere from Sesame Street to The Soup and snagged multiple honors, including the Grand Prix at Cannes and an Emmy Award. More to the point, it stoked sales and instantly revolutionized our grandfathers’ fusty deodorant brand.

For Old Spice, as with so many established brands, the choice was simple: change or die.

“They had to resonate with the younger demographic or risk going away,” Daye says.

More recently, W+K worked its magic on another long-in-the-tooth product, Brown-Forman Corp.’s liquor brand Southern Comfort, with its impossible-to-ignore “Whatever’s Comfortable” spot. It features perhaps the antithesis of “The Most Interesting Man in the World” and the suave Mustafa: a middle-aged, overly tanned dude sporting a Speedo and pot belly (talk about liberation), strutting along the beach to the strains of Odetta’s “Hit or Miss” as sunbathing lovelies take note.

The juxtaposition suggests that the modern dude refuses to fit neatly into any one stereotype—which, of course, is what liberation is really all about.

Yet for men, that liberty may yet prove to have unforeseen costs.

Take the T&A-themed restaurant chain Hooters—a man-centric brand if ever there was one—which is currently trying to turn around its slumping sales by luring more (gulp) female customers.

The Atlantic summed up that alarming state of affairs with a headline that we’re likely to see more of as the demographic continues to evolve: “The End of Men, For Real.”