MARKETING TO MEN: MEN REALLY ARE FROM MARS - What is it that makes men so different? The answers should provide an invaluable tool for marketers, Aric Sigman says

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.

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

glucose levels.

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,

comparative behaviours.

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.


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