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Ad agency Leo Burnett Worldwide has released a proprietary global study of men's attitudes and values entitled "Metros Versus Retros: Are Marketers Missing Real Men?"

"There has never been a more relevant time to reassess the state of masculinity, particularly as it affects buying patterns and trends in global marketing," said Burnett CEO Tom Bernardin. "While the world has been focused on women, men have been undergoing some significant changes of their own. ”Furthermore, he said, "As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled. It's a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully."

The study was unveiled at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

Overall, findings from the Burnett study highlight the disruption of men's sense of identity due to what it calls “profound social and structural changes taking place across the globe. The study confirmed that men in most parts of the world are unsure of what's expected of them in society, with half of those surveyed saying they felt their role in society was unclear. Additionally, a stunning 74 percent said they believe the images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.”

According to a summary:

    The study revealed the existence of a "New Male Spectrum," characterized on one end by enlightened, evolved, modern men -- or what have been popularly dubbed "metrosexuals," and on the other end, entrenched, more traditionally masculine "retrosexuals" who cling steadfastly to stereotypical male behavior. Both groups are engaged by the gender debate and see themselves in terms relative to women: either they're more like women (Metros) or they're aggressively asserting their difference from women, (Retros).

    The agency cautioned marketers against becoming fixated on these men who are adapting -- or not -- to women's new power and influence in society. According to the Man Study, fewer than 40 percent of men define themselves this way: the majority of men surveyed (60 percent) aren't caught up in this gender debate and live by a more traditional set of standards for assessing their masculinity. This larger group is more focused on defining themselves in the eyes of other men, largely by seeking respect and admiration for being successful in their professional life on one end of the spectrum, or their personal, family life on the other. The study dubs these men on the "Traditional Male Spectrum" as Power Seekers and Patriarchs, respectively, and contends they are largely overlooked by popular culture, the media and marketers.

    In assessing men's attitudes and values, the study also uncovered some surprising findings. Men may be more sensitive than we give them credit for: the greatest insult to a man, according to those surveyed, is that "he'll never amount to anything" (29 percent), followed by "everyone laughs behind your back" (24 percent) and "you're stupid" (21 percent). Men may be less interested in money than happiness: study participants overwhelmingly said that they'd rather have a job they love (73 percent) vs. a job that pays well (27 percent). And they are torn when it comes to taking care of others vs. themselves: when asked about their ultimate male fantasy, those surveyed ranked "ending world hunger" (#1) and "being a world famous sports star" (#2) above "being married to a supermodel" (#3).

The Burnett study offered marketers specific recommendations on how to target the male audience:

1. Embrace male complexity, rather than find solace in clichés.
2. Anticipate that men with successfully adapt to cultural and societal changes.
3. “Let the primal man come out to play” by indulging traditional male marketing ploys…but do so knowingly.
4. Reflect the zeitgeist, because there’s nothing less effective than marketing in denial.
KC's View:
We don’t know whether to smirk defiantly, chuckle knowingly, or cry because finally somebody really, really gets us.


Actually, we’ve been saying in this space for a long time that food retailers are missing the boat by assuming that women have to be the targets for their marketing efforts. Even though women still do most of the food shopping, that is changing…and might change faster if retailers would spend a little time trying to attract men to the store.