Developing powerful connections with male consumers

Man throwing football

Creating designs with men in mind can develop powerful connections and make your marketing messages go through the roof, even in categories that traditionally haven’t been targeted to men.

Realizing that men appreciate how looking good can confer an advantage in their personal and professional lives, Unilever launched the DoveMen+Care. The line extension celebrates its fifth year of helping men take better care of their skin without the potentially self-conscious experience of purchasing products traditionally marketed towards women.

Today, health and beauty products dedicated to men can be found in big box retailers, and other retailers such as Sephora and Bath & Body, and marketed by consumer packaged goods behemoths and boutique brands.

Embarrassment-Free Beauty

Ernest Supplies, LLC products prides itself on designing American-made products that are “simple and easy to use, premium, highly efficacious, natural and masculine” and won’t embarrass men “when someone finds an Ernest product hanging out in your shower or in your clear plastic bag at airport security.”  The package design is by Milana Kosovac, co-founding partner of Miloby Ideasystem, designed the packaging for the company’s skincare product line called Ernest Supplies, and enlisted a ton of different male opinions about its packaging. The result is a simple, bold look paired with a practical and unusual structure for this category—-the pouch. The complete package design is decidedly not feminine.

TOP LEFT For this marketing campaign, Doug Flutie reveals the milestones both on and off the field that have helped him become truly comfortable in his own skin. The concept of comfortable in your own skin was a central message in Unilever’s Journey to Comfort campaign.

TOP CENTER, RIGHT Part of Unilever’s marketing and branding strategy for Dove Men+Care included stories from sports legends such as John Elway and Doug Flutie to redefine “what it means for a man to be a champion.”

The packaging for the Sunbeam GrillMaster uses simple and clear messaging, benefit copy and graphics that stand out.

Robert Fucinato is senior manager of global package design for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. Pfizer’s product portfolio includes everything from pharmaceuticals such as Viagra and personal care products such as ChapStick, and Fucinato has designed packaging for brands with strong male consumer bases, such as Therma-Care, Eveready Batteries and the Sunbeam GrillMaster. He contends that designing for men is an important and separate endeavor than designing for women in the personal care market.

“Men now spend more money on non-shaving related personal care items than the shaving ones,” he says. “In fact, the market for male-based products is valued at $17.5 billion. Men look at products with a different visual perspective. Some of this is genetic evolution, some of it is the no-nonsense way we like to grab and go.” Mike Black, vice president of marketing at Affinnova (a Nielsen company), agrees. “Package design might be especially important for men when it comes to a category such as beauty,” he remarks. “The right package design can mitigate some of the perceived social risks around shopping for these products in store, as well as fight against the ingrained notion that these products aren’t for men.”

Laws of Attraction

Martha Seidner, executive vice president of Smith Design, says starting with an innovative structure with a bold, masculine feel is a great way to differentiate packaging when targeting men.

“When done right, and truly distinct from category conventions, the shape and structure may be the first thing consumers notice, and it’s a big opportunity,” she says. “Adding straight-forward graphics, keeping messages to a minimum and strategic use of color will get your man’s attention.”

Brands that stand apart from the clutter visually, and make an impression fast, seem to resonate most with men.

Take the tech space, for instance. With early adopters being mostly men, the packaging is mostly gender neutral or skews more masculine to avoid alienating the initial key audience of their products. Seidner says this is why brands like Xbox, Apple and Nymi Band employ simple graphics, pared down messaging, and clean minimalist aesthetic, neutral colors with hints of bolder color for impact.

Yet, just as with women, what resonates with younger men may be distinctly different versus older men.

“For example, in personal care, Axe targets younger men with a tone manner that’s trendier, edgier with a knowing ‘wink’ of playfulness, versus Dove’s for Men, which feels more functional, basic, simple and discrete,” Seidner says. “Both Axe and Old Spice do a great job at creating distinctive experiences via the visual imagery and cues wrapped around all their ever increasing range of variants and segments. They also employ humor in their marketing and advertising.”


Insights in the Men’s Psyche

When considering designs for men, Fucinato notes it’s extremely important to convey an immediate read that it’s for men utilizing simple and clear messaging, benefit copy and graphics that stand out.

“I recommend utilizing colors that are masculine or preferred by men, such as blues, grays, charcoals, browns and metallics,” he says.“ The physical structure is also important. It should have broad shapes, geometric planes that seem physically weighted as opposed to softer curved elements that would appeal to a female audience.”

For packaging for Bosch power tools, Fucinato used blue color mixed with red and black graphic elements, rugged textural cues within the typography and strong simple photography showing the tool and its use; for Chams Resolutions Personal Care products, he used a strong and vivid color palette to segment the product line and simple and direct graphics; and his design for Eveready Batteries also included strong masculine colors and active graphic elements that conveyed speed, strength and power.

In Fucinato’s opinion, depicting a protagonist or using aspirational imagery does help to place the male consumer in that moment with a product as they see themselves as wanting to be that person. For example, when he was designing packaging for ThermaCare Heatwraps, the product line used all male models on the packaging.

“Research showed that men would not purchase the product if we depicted a female wear- ing the heat wrap,” he says. “Women however would and do purchase the product with a male on the face panel.”

And thinking like this starts early, Seidner shares. “Anyone working in the youth marketed brands will concur it’s best to skew ‘boy’ on products designed for both genders, since boys will likely be alienated by overtly feminine cues,” she says. “Conversely, girls are much more at ease with masculine ones.”

On Message

Keeping messaging simple is always important on packaging because you have a few seconds to grab attention, but this is especially true for men, who psychologically tend to focus more laser-beam-like on a task.

“Keep the messages to a minimum, using bolder graphics that speak to the gender cues ingrained in our culture to give your brand a better shot at grabbing your man’s attention, faster,” Seidner says. “Package designers continue to rethink what gets noticed by consumers as gender roles and stereotypes evolve.”

Seidner adds that men look for recognizable, straightforward ingredients on beauty packs, shying away from new or “trendy” ingredients such as taurine or coconut oil, and preferring to see a mention of the end nutrient (such as Vitamin E or antioxidants) rather than a natural substance that may contain this nutrient (such as aloe).

One last thing to keep in mind, “regardless of the packaging,” Fucinato states, “store placement can be a big factor in attracting men to a product because there are psychological traits that may preclude men from purchasing if they have to wade through a more female-based product category.”

“Men now spend more money on non-shaving related personal care items than the shaving ones. The market for male-based products is valued at $17.5 billion.” 

— Robert Fucinato, senior manager global package design for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare

“Adding straight-forward graphics, keeping messages to a minimum and strategic use of color will get your man’s attention.” 

— Martha Seidner, executive vice president of Smith Design

“Men look at products with a different visual perspective. Some of this is genetic evolution, some of it is the no-nonsense way we like to grab and go.” 

— Robert Fucinato, senior manager global package design for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare