Men are a scientifically distinct group of consumers the world
over. Their needs, desires, motivations and the strategies they employ
in reacting to these are profoundly different from those of women. Men
perceive different stimuli, process information differently and memorise
different things in different ways.
Advertising which fails to adopt approaches that take such gender
differences into account will fail to attract male interest, attention
and, more importantly, response to advertisers’ messages. If advertisers
understood precisely how different males and females are on the most
profound biological and psychological levels, they could connect with
men more effectively.
Despite its smug assumption of being hip, when it comes to sexual
politics advertising has been remarkably PC, consequently missing out on
greater opportunities of tapping into society’s big spenders - men.
Much of the male identity is pre-programmed. Male brains are larger,
shaped differently and function differently - and their hormone profiles
make the differences with women even greater.
In women, for instance, abilities such as language are more evenly
divided between the left and right halves of the brain; in men they are
much more confined to the left side. After strokes or injuries to the
left half of the brain, women are three times less likely than men to
suffer language problems. Women also have a fatter bundle of fibres that
links the two halves of the brain, which enables them to process
information in a completely different way, which is literally more
flexible and holistic.
However, the use of the upper and lower (more primitive) parts of the
brain are where the really big differences between men and women are
found. In men, it’s the lowest and oldest part that is firing away,
while in women it is the upper, more recently developed, part involving
gestures and words.
Such differences permeate every area of the human condition, including
the ability to express emotions, something which is reflected in the
likelihood and method chosen to commit suicide, which is three times as
common in men as in women. At the moment, the Department of Health is
working to combat a rise in male suicide with help from advertising
designed by Ogilvy &Mather. Research found that, unlike advertising to
women, ’attempts to enlist sympathy for the suicide victims could
seriously backfire ... instead the scale of the (death rate) problem was
dramatised by presenting the hard, unarguable facts of the matter’.
When they’re not taking their own lives intentionally, men place
themselves at risk for enjoyment. One in five people display the
inclination to take high risks because they need more stimulation than
others. They are identified as ’high sensation seeking’ personality
types. Almost all are male and they respond to information and stimuli
differently. They require a level of actual risk - whether physical,
social, sexual or legal. In a rich, safety-obsessed society, everyday
life may have become too safe, predictable and boring for this
Scientific studies have also found men are less emotional, yet more
competitive - and it’s biological. It’s not surprising that the female
athletes disqualified for taking hormones are invariably discovered to
be taking male hormones in order to increase their competitiveness.
Males are much worse at detecting nuances and reading social situations,
making them less understanding and less intuitive. These ’qualities’ are
linked to a gene on the x chromosome.
Of course, all this has implications for any marketing to men. When it
comes to selling food, there are some significant traits. Firstly, men
eat food, but women have a relationship with it. On a practical front,
men have greater appetites because they need more calories per day to
keep them alive, so there should never be a genderless serving size or
meal for one. But this is not reflected in the marketing, manufacturing
or packaging of food.
There are also differences in what men want to eat and when they want to
eat it. Research has found that when watching a frightening or highly
charged film on TV, women will be more likely to raid the fridge.
Furthermore, female menstrual cycles influence their appetite and food
choices, with sugary fatty foods such as chocolate featuring highly in
the later half of the cycle in an attempt to shore up plummeting blood
It’s common wisdom that women and men have different attitudes to
But how do men like to buy? Unlike women, few men shop as a form of
emotional expression. There are an estimated 700,000 ’shopping addicts’
in Britain (2 per cent of the population), hardly any of whom are male.
Men tend to ’mission shop’ - to engage in strategic, quantitative,
Finding visual material that appeals to both sexes is another
With films, men often have difficulty enjoying ’women’s movies’, which
tend to rely more upon dialogue, emotion and character development.
’Girls’ movies’ tend to explore the person experiencing the pain,
whereas ’boys’ movies’ are more likely to explore the inflicting of
Men also read differently. Direct mail practitioners take note: a
two-year study at the Bristol Business School recently found that direct
mail had to be ’sexed’ in order to connect with male consumers - short
paragraphs followed by bullet points, facts, figures and more
This is likely to be linked to the male superiority in visual-spatial
ability - analysing and mentally manipulating three-dimensional objects.
It’s therefore not surprising to find an apparent male bias contained
within the design and terminology of computer software. Something that,
of course, has profound implications as we gear up for e-commerce and
marketing through the small screen. It’s little wonder that feminist
articles have switched from body politics to ’why Windows is a feminist
This is adapted from Dr Aric Sigman’s report, Ignoring Janet and John,
and his presentation to the Admap conference on marketing to men.