JWT’s AnxietyIndex is designed as a place to discuss how brands and consumers are responding to the global recession. With daily content updates, AnxietyIndex.com includes contributions from around JWT’s network, offering a truly global perspective.
A JWTIntelligence study featured in our latest trend report, “The State of Men,” explores several sources of anxiety for men today. One is physical appearance: Factors including the constant sharing of photos on social media and the hyper-competitiveness of job markets are helping to drive pressure on men to look their best. According to a survey we conducted in the U.S. and the U.K., more than three-quarters of men agree that “These days, there’s more pressure than in the past for men to dress well and be well-groomed” and that men face as much pressure as women to stay in shape/have a good body. Our survey, conducted from April 29-May 2 using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool, found that men are particularly sensitive about their midsection, whether it’s love handles, a beer belly or an insufficient six-pack. And there’s some evidence that such anxieties are starting early: Boys are becoming more concerned with body image at a younger age, according to a U.S. study published in Pediatrics.
Men are addressing these anxieties by turning to everything from cosmetic procedures to cosmetics. Aside from providing practical solutions, brands can speak to these anxieties by, at minimum, being sensitive to them. Men are seeing ever more highly sculpted male bodies, from Hollywood’s leading men to tongue-in-cheek advertising hunks like the Old Spice spokesmen and Kraft’s Zesty Guy. So marketers can dial down on the intimidation factor with more realistic models and positive messaging that avoids aggravating anxieties. For example, several underwear brands now perceive an “abs fatigue” among male shoppers, The New York Times reported in May. A designer with the 2(x)ist label said the company is shifting toward something “a little less steroid-y” in its images.
When a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi was gang-raped and beaten to death last December, the horrendous crime spotlighted the fact that, in India, rape has long been depressingly common. (The U.N.’s human rights chief calls rape in India a “national problem.”) To address these atrocities against women, and more generally the sheer lack of public safety they feel in India, Gillette has embarked on a unique journey with a new campaign, “Soldier for Women.”
The objective is to inspire young Indian men to awaken their “inner valor” by embracing what a case study describes as the five values an ideal man should incorporate into his daily life: courage, camaraderie, discipline, integrity and grooming. A television spot showcases men and women from different social strata coming together, and we see men stand by women, as soldiers. The supers tell the story: “Soldiers wanted. Not to guard the borders. But to support the most important battle of the nation. To stand up for women.” Some commenters on YouTube criticize that women can stand up for themselves, but the point is more the final line, about respect: “Because when you respect women, you respect your nation.”
Since the high-profile rape, thousands of Indians have been stirred to rise up and express their anger and anguish through nationwide protests. The issue has created a huge furor across the country, with people questioning India’s very system of basic rights and equalities. Gillette taps into this strong vein of feeling in its social media component: A Facebook page asks consumers to share stories about people who have stood up for women (in exchange for free razors), and on Twitter the hashtag is #SoldierforWomen. The conversations and response among the public have been great so far.
Upscale U.K. department store Harvey Nichols positions its women’s-wear department as the answer to a holiday-season anxiety for potential customers: that after searching for the perfect party getup, they’ll be upstaged by another woman wearing the same thing. This “nightmare” scenario is taken to an extreme in a humorous video: Two women at the same party are wearing the same distinctive red dress, and instead of figuratively shooting daggers at each other, they start shooting red lasers from their eyes, destroying much of the space. Eventually one of the women is defeated—but then a third woman arrives in the same dress, and a new battle begins.
“Avoid a same dress disaster this season,” says the on-screen copy at the end. This type of retailer can’t compete on price, but it can compete with the ubiquitous chains on unique offerings that are perfect for showing off at holiday parties.
In Mexico, men have traditionally been the ultimate authority of the home, with the last word in finances and other big family decisions. In recent years however, gender lines have been redrawn as women make strides toward greater equality. As men wake up to the reality that their role is changing, they’re feeling isolated and in the dark, unsure of what their role is now.
A TV spot from motor oil brand Roshfrans seeks to reassure men that while they may have lost space and power to the fairer gender, they’re still master of one domain: the car. “It is time that we as men recognize something in our lives is changing,” declares the opening voiceover as we see that even the football stadium is no longer a male-dominated arena, with a pack of young women ogling a star player’s hot body. The commercial then takes us through the household’s new power dynamic. A man prepares dinner with a baby at the hip while his wife makes calls and handles what seems to be paperwork (“One day you find yourself in the kitchen with the excuse that men are the best chefs in the world,” laments the voiceover). Husbands look perplexed as their wives gain control of the TV remote and the closet (“If it’s all about equality, how’s it possible that the closet belongs all to them?”) and make his friends feel unwelcome.
“At Roshfrans we understand that there’s less and less space for men,” the voiceover sympathizes, reassuring former machismos that the brand stands with them. “That’s why we keep safe your last refugee, your car.” Mexico has always been a conservative country, as has its brand messaging; as the country becomes more liberal, brands have started to not only reflect the accompanying cultural changes but also help Mexicans adjust to the new paradigms.
At least two marketing campaigns targeted at men, from Heineken and Eurosport France, have tapped into male anxiety about missing important sports games because of interference from wives and girlfriends who aren’t fans. During this summer’s World Cup, Cadbury in Argentina came up with an innovative way to flip the idea around, targeting women feeling neglected by football-mad men. A Facebook campaign turned Cadbury into a de facto dating service, with the page serving as a place for women to meet men who preferred to go out than to watch football. Men could create profiles that included a nickname, status update and photo, and participate in several activities and gain points that made their profiles more visible and accessible. They could also could send women virtual Cadbury’s gifts.
The effort was backed by TV spots featuring women attempting to interact with their significant others. In one commercial, a woman is slowly packing a suitcase, and her beau sits on the corner of the bed with his head hung low. Assuming he’s sad she’s going away, the woman reassures her love that it’s only a three-day trip—only to learn his despair is caused by the morning paper’s cover story on a penalty that cost his soccer team the match. “A man will never be as tempting as Cadbury, and less so during the World Cup,” the voiceover says, directing women to Cadbury’s Facebook page to find a listing of men to “write, chat, go out with or maybe something else.”
“Something else” can certainly be a great stress reliever, as is chocolate. Apparently quite a few Argentineans agreed: From June to the end of the World Cup in July, 38,244 people liked the Cadbury page, and women can still visit the platform and meet with men who don’t care about football.
Recently published manga: Grass-Eating Man’s Love Study
In Japan, there’s been a lot of buzz recently around soshoku-kei danshi, which translates as herbivorous or “grass eating” men. Political correctness aside, this term refers to the growing number of men age 20 to 34 who display less “masculine” traits than the “meat eaters” dominating the preceding generation. But before you start envisioning an overdue triumph of feminism in Japan, the reasons for—and results of—this shift in gender attitudes are not particularly positive.
Soshoku-kei danshi are generally considered to have a combination of the following attributes (based on research conducted last year by Tokyo-based market research firm Infinity): lack of ambition at work, preferring to avoid competition; limited life aspirations; low interest or even a negative attitude toward love, sex, dating and marriage; extremely tight with money (saving for the future is a high priority); and sensitivity and concern about their appearance, from fashion to hair and personal care.
It’s estimated that roughly 60 percent of men 20 to 34 fit the bill. If that sounds exaggerated, note that in a survey of 500 single men in their 20s and 30s by Lifenet Seimei Insurance, three-quarters said they regard themselves as soshoku-kei danshi.
There’s much debate as to the roots of this trend, but a common theme is the link to anxiety. These men have bleak economic prospects—they grew up after Japan’s bubble economy burst in the late ’80s and have never known what it’s like to live in good economic times. With a huge opportunity and wage gap compared to men over 35, the defensive response has been greater caution and limiting of life aspirations. As I wrote in a previous post on the high levels of anxiety in Japan, when these young men look to the future, they don’t see much to be hopeful for. Continue reading ‘The rise of ‘herbivore man’ in Japan’