Opinion: Male beauty sector

Beauty and the beard: Banishing the male grooming stigma
In a booming industry, brands and retailers must step up to the plate, says Matthew Ellison, head of planning at The Shopper Agency.

Whether it’s the latest age-defying moisturiser, a new hair product promising great things or a quirky preening treatment, the male grooming market is booming. From just four per cent of men using beauty products in 1991 to more than 50 per cent purchasing online in 2016*, cosmetics are piling up in the shopping baskets of men all over the country. But one question remains, is there still a stigma associated with male grooming?

Although the statistics seem to speak for themselves, these alone aren’t enough to cause a significant attitude change. The main obstacle we face in overcoming stigmas is challenging perceptions. Male grooming is still classed as ‘feminine’, with anything more than a haircut or beard trim being met with criticism. Step inside the online world of male makeup YouTubers and you’ll soon be met with the cyber-bullying they face on a weekly basis. If men are more likely than women to buy toiletries online, why are we still hung up on them using these products?

Big brands are recognising the market potential
With the male grooming market set to be worth an eyewatering $26.6bn in 2020, brands owe it to their customers to help banish discriminatory attitudes. Although the idea of high street stores stocking full men’s makeup collections might still be a few years away, big brands are recognising the marketspace potential for male beauty products. Father’s Day this year saw eBay create a dedicated men’s grooming hub in partnership with L’Oréal, featuring the Men Expert range alongside selected brands such as electronics giant Phillips and beard grooming specialists Mo Bros.

L’Oréal’s UK boss also announced in August men’s makeup counters could be a reality within five years, as the idea of wearing makeup becomes less taboo in a 'selfie generation'. Slightly ahead of the curve, Tom Ford made history in 2013 by being the first major designer to release a makeup line dedicated to men. Fast-forward to 2017 and ASOS has broken boundaries to start stocking MMUK MAN makeup in its male grooming section on-site. The beauty range has been around since 2012 but this partnership is predicted to catapult its success, aimed at guys who 'simply want to look their best everyday'.

Male vs female attitudes to shopping
To tap into this growing retail sphere, one thing brands need to understand is how male and female attitudes typically differ towards buying beauty products. Research over the past couple of years** has shown that shopper motives differ according to gender; men adopt a utilitarian attitude whereas women are much more hedonic. In other words, men focus on the functional aspect of a product, choosing brands that offer good value and are fit for purpose. Women, on the other hand, desire an emotional shopping experience and want to gain a greater understanding of a brand’s story; they want to be sold a ‘lifestyle’. It’s worth noting however, that our attitudes towards brands and products are constantly changing. New names in ‘male lifestyle’ are constantly entering the blogosphere and with them comes opinions, arguments and emotions – could our shopping habits be evolving?

What can brands do?
With this in mind, there’s no one-rule-fits-all when it comes to marketing to the other half of the population – brands must be agile in their approach and steer clear of old fashioned attitudes that ‘real men’ don’t wear makeup. The fact of the matter is, some of the world’s biggest male figures embrace a spot of cover up and additional beautification from time to time. Brands have an obligation to help break down the gender stereotypes of beauty, firstly starting with their visual appeal. Packaging subtly reinforces the male vs female binary – male grooming products are grey, black, steel and clearly labelled FOR MEN – even though the ingredients are likely to be the same as the female alternative. Although men’s ‘utilitarian’ shopping attitudes might not warrant extravagant emotion-provoking packaging (yet), it doesn’t mean brands can’t appeal beyond black, white and grey. In the same way that children’s toy brands are moving away from pink for girls and blue for boys, male grooming brands need to adopt a similar stance. So guys, it’s okay to pick up a product that falls outside your usual visual appeal!

Change is coming
2017 could therefore become known as the year of change. In January, cosmetics giant Maybelline New York named YouTuber Manny Gutierrez as its first male ambassador. With over two million subscribers, the online star is well-placed to share makeup tutorials and advise on beauty regimes, to both his male and female followers. The decision follows American colour cosmetics brand CoverGirl’s announcement in October 2016 that makeup artist James Charles has been named its first ‘cover boy’. Even Snapchat jumped on the boundary breaking bandwagon with a ‘Discover’ channel called ‘Boy Beauty’ that saw social media stars offering makeup tips for guys.

Although not met without criticism, these tactical moves demonstrate a signal change in the industry, breaking traditional gender norms. More beauty brands need to follow suit to engage their male audience, roping in the help of celebs or influencer ambassadors to break the stigma. A final point worth sharing is that Mintel’s 2017 Beauty Retailing Report highlighted that 64 per cent of male beauty buyers purchase products in supermarkets over any other retail destination, suggesting there is real opportunity for brands to engage these shoppers and trigger additional spending in this environment.

So, chaps, next time you’re doing your weekly food shop you might just find yourself lingering a little longer down the beauty aisle.  

*Mintel’s Beauty Retailing – UK, January 2017 Report
**Mpinganjira, M (2014)


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