Boy, Oh Boy | Adweek
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  • September 25, 2000, 12:00 AM EDT
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Hormones still rule, even in the new economy. Marketers continue to base critical decisions only on intuition and gut instinct rather than anything that resembles objective data. We can prove it.

Copernicus designed a study of 293 senior marketing managers (144 men, 149 women) representing a cross-section of Fortune 1000 companies. The study investigated perceptions of male vs. female CMOs by the marketing managers who report to them.

The study found that most marketing decisions are rushed, rely on little research and focus on short-term results. Furthermore, we found male marketing managers displayed these patterns far more than female managers. Respondents said male CMOs make decisions quickly (82 percent), are risk-oriented (81 percent), are short-term-oriented (67 percent) and pay too much attention to what competitors are doing (56 percent).

Our conclusion: Just as men tend to drive around lost rather than ask for help, they also feel inclined to make advertising decisions based on "it feels right" judgments. We call this unspoken yet insidious pattern of decision-making "testosterone marketing."

To see the effects of testosterone marketing, turn on the TV or open any magazine and start scanning the ads. You'll find remarkably similar styles and messages among competitive brands and—particularly for e-commerce companies—campaigns that showcase testosterone. Consider:

• Send.com, an online gift store, in a TV spot had several men on the golf course sipping champagne. When one of the guys got hit "where it counts," the voice of "the giver" exclaimed, "He just got hit in the little giver!"

• Dash, an online advertising sponsorship firm, featured three-page spreads of action figures talking military lingo, like "Sparrow to Eagle's Nest … The fox is in the henhouse," etc. The tagline: "The art of e-war."

• Registrars.com, a domain-registration service, pictured two men in a shower having this conversation: "I didn't know you could get one that long." "Yeah, it only cost me 60 bucks and lasts for two years." Headline: "Longer domain names now available."

There's nothing wrong with macho ads per se—if they appeal to the target customer, communicate a differentiated brand message and are not offensive. But, as these examples illustrate, many recent campaigns—driven by testosterone marketing—completely miss the mark.

At a time when marketing has become more crucial than ever to growing businesses, this gut-and-go style is dangerous. Testosterone marketing has further exacerbated the disturbing decline of brand equity.

Last year, a corporate branding study found that the best-known and most highly regarded brands are declining in brand equity. "Brand power" ratings dropped 8 percent for nine of the 10 best-known brands.

Like the frazzled female in the passenger seat, we scream, "Stop and get directions!" Avoid the dead end of testosterone marketing. Use your judgment aided by the road map of serious marketing research. Your brand—and your bottom line