Monthly Archives

January 2013

Aprons AND Jerseys on Super Bowl Sunday

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My gear is ready for Super Bowl Sunday. I’ve got my team jersey on standby, and my apron, too.


Apron? That’s right. Because on Super Bowl Sunday, just as on many other days of the year, real men are hanging out in the kitchen. Men are cooking more for entertainment, for pleasure and for the family. They’re not just donning the “kiss the cook” apron and flipping burgers and steaks on the barbecue, though. These days, plenty of men, like myself, are cooking panko-crusted chicken, steak au poivre, and pork chops for the family during the week. And on this Sunday, I’m betting I’ll be one of many millions of men cheering and watching from the stove as I make wings, burgers and twice-baked potatoes for the game.


As gender roles shift and more men take on household responsibilities, we’re seeing a rise in guys who like to cook. Men are comfortable in the grocery store, and in the kitchen, too, according to a recent Generation X report from the University of Michigan. The report found that married men in Generation X (those born between 1961 and 1981) said they prepped 34 meals in a typical month, compared to 51 meals made by married women. Also, young married men said they shopped for food five times a month, only two times fewer than married women. The gap in the kitchen is indeed closing. NPD Group reports that 41% of men are cooking on a regular basis, up from 31% in 1998.


We’ve seen this in our research, too, suggesting that cooking, food and entertaining are categories that are becoming more “guy-friendly” to marketers. For instance, I know of fathers and sons who watch cooking shows together, such as Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares.” In years past, marketers might have thought of men as only sports-centric when it came to competitive viewing, but now cooking shows have become part of their TV repertoire. Their viewing habits reflect the changing makeup of the kitchen. About half of men 18 to 34 said they participate in the decisions about what gets served at home, according to SMG and the Boston Consulting group.


These changes are occurring for several reasons. For some men, the interest in cooking is about taking a bigger role in personal health and eating choices, and for others it’s because men aren’t necessarily the sole breadwinners anymore, so married couples are splitting household responsibilities. But men have also told us in our studies that they simply like to cook and be creative in the kitchen.


Here’s another interesting tidbit. A United Kingdom study said the ability to cook is actually a key factor for guys in attracting women. So, we can give a big thanks to Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, who have paved the way in becoming sex symbols for a new generation of women. That trend has opened up opportunities for marketers to reach men with kitchen appliances, cookbooks, and specialty foods.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a vat of chili to cook up for Sunday.


This article originally appeared on Mediapost Engage:Men, January 31, 2013.

It’s The Year Of The Project Guy

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A new year often means new beginnings and resolutions. For men in 2013, it is going to bring in a new era. While men used to be beholden to honey-do lists, this year men will embark on their own projects and use them as a time to exercise their masculinity.  A couple of months ago, I wrote about men seeking and embracing small adventures to get in their “guy time.” Expanding on that, men are now shepherding a new wave of homegrown projects earmarked as “guy only” pastimes.


A generation ago, these passion projects were things like having a fixer-upper car or keeping a leaky boat parked in the driveway that men would work on in their spare time. The new wave of household projects may be as small as cooking a meal from scratch, or a bigger undertaking like crafting a tree house for their kids.


If you layer on the network effect of social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, men won’t just be completing these projects, they’ll be showing them off to their communities as well. If you don’t think men will leverage video to tell their story, even President Obama is showing off his side project, and his team’s craft beer project has achieved more than 500k views this year. These moments will be used as opportunities to say, I’m a man, look what I did (it may even compensate for watching “Downtown Abbey”).


I saw a video last year created by Schwood sunglasses that captures this notion of the maker, while also showcasing many things about what I think brands are doing well in video. First, wearing my video company hat, this is an amazing way to create branded entertainment. It isn’t a commercial, it’s content. It has integrity without being overtly advertising. Second, from a production perspective, it’s beautifully shot, effectively uses short form, and tells a story. Third, it showcases men having passion for their side projects. These guys are doing something for the sheer fun of it and their love of the pastime sings through.


How are brands preparing for this notion of the maker? It’s happening on two fronts. There is a new generation of emerging brands (like Schwood) that are speaking directly to this audience of men who don’t feel they need to fit into a traditional mold. Brands like Best Made have empowered men to look at their side projects as adventures, and they provide the tools that help men do amazing things. Big brands are in on the game, too.


If you’re like me, you’ve sat in awe of the new Cadillac CTS commercials this year. The old car ad would have amazing hero shots of the car zipping through the open winding road with leaves blowing from behind it. Instead these ads used professional drivers, took them out of their helmets and racing “unisuits” and showed them as enthusiasts. They’re using the CTS to fuel their passion project. They showcased men doing what they love; imagine if driving is your side project, you’re definitely in line for a test drive.


It all comes back to the maker, the notion that men work hard so that they can pursue their true passions when they aren’t on the clock. So dust off your old 10-speed, sharpen your butcher’s knife, and remember to wear safety goggles when using power tools. It’s time to get on that side project. Men everywhere are doing it.


This article originally appeared on Mediapost Engage:Men, January 15, 2013.

Food Is the Passion for Millennials

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Contrary to research by the NPD Group, Boston Consulting Group found restaurant meals and drinks are high on the list of what Millennials like to spend their money on—ranking above consumer electronics, apparel, and beauty products. Research showed Millennials eat out more often than non-Millennials (3.4 versus 2.8 times per week) and are more likely to get food to go than to dine-in. Generally speaking Millennials care more about late-night dining, convenience, décor, menu and drink variety, entertainment, and Wi-Fi.


Millennials eat at restaurants during off-peak hours twice as often as non-Millennials and prefer fast, fast-casual, takeout, Asian, exotic, and organic foods more than non-Millennials (who prefer seafood and steak). Millennials are also much more likely to eat out with friends and coworkers (65% of Millennials compared with 43% of non-Millennials).


Male and Hispanic Millennials eat out more often than other Millennials. These men seek to “cheer on my team and celebrate,” “be recognized as a regular [customer],” and be “in the know” more than female Millennials and non-Millennials. Hispanic Millennials want the dining experience to be a nice one for their entire family.

Teen Boys Obsessed With Muscles

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Pediatricians are sounding alarm bells about boys who take unhealthy measures to achieve the large, lean, and muscular male bodies that have become so visible in today’s advertising. Whether it’s long hours in the gym, allowances blown on expensive supplements or even risky experiments with illegal steroids, the price American boys are willing to pay for the perfect body appears to be on the rise.


A study published in the journal Pediatrics found more than 40% of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercised with the goal of increasing muscle mass, 38% used protein supplements, and 6% had experimented with steroids.


While college-age men have long been interested in bodybuilding, pediatricians say they have been surprised to find that even middle school boys are obsessed with building muscles. And their youth adds an element of risk. Just as girls who count every calorie in an effort to be thin may do themselves more harm than good, boys who chase an illusory image of manhood may end up stunting their development, doctors say, particularly when they turn to supplements — or, worse, steroids — to supercharge their results.


From Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession, The New York Times, November 19, 2012.

I Know Exactly What To Wear Today

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I consider myself a “guy’s guy.” I watch sports almost exclusively, play poker once a week (when my wife lets me), eat as many chicken wings as I can in a sitting and wear shorts and a t-shirt whenever possible. But something in me changed these past few years and I’ve noticed it’s a trend amongst men; I’m caring more about how I look and what I wear. And I don’t just mean during the week. I’m talking about all the time.


Millennial guys are putting a lot of effort into looking good these days, says youth researcher YPulse. It’s not that guy style hasn’t existed in the past — there was the “Miami Vice” look of the ’80s, the grunge look of the ’90s, and the metrosexual craze of the ’00s — but now guys are pursuing fashion by curating unique looks, rather than just copying what they see on TV. And I fall right into that category.


Jon McNeill, a principle at Hunter Qualitative Research, recently wrote an article where he talked about his interview with Chris Yoon, director of design at Calvin Klein. Chris said style is all about authenticity for men today. “It’s got to feel genuine … there has to be a basis for where it’s coming from: either a classic (like Ray-Ban Wayfarers), or a new twist on a classic. People identify with that.”


For me, it’s about awareness of the latest trends, observing men’s fashion styles in my every day, and knowing where to shop for clothes and accents that suit me. I’m so much more aware of how I look, and what that says about me than I’ve ever been. I also notice I’m looking for a more custom experience as well. I don’t just go out and buy a pair of jeans, show up at the department store, and have a couple pairs to choose from. I now want to buy the perfect wash and cut of jeans and am given countless options to cater to my personal style. Sound familiar? It should; in a relatively short amount of time men have started to buy products more like women do.


I’m now using clothes and style to tell a more personal story about who I am. From the research and articles I’ve been reading, I’m not alone.


This article originally appeared on Mediapost Engage:Men, November 13, 2012.

Marriage Financially Fruitful for Men

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Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey 2012 indicate full-time median income for married men ages 18-64 years old was $55,958, as compared to $34,634 for single men. However for men, the correlation between marital status and salary may be getting interpreted in reverse. In other words, it may not be that married men are being rewarded with higher incomes; it may be that men are putting off marriage until they start earning more money.


“There is reason to believe that men who already have higher incomes are more likely to get married in the first place,” says Sarah Jane Glynn of the Center for American Progress. “Economics play a huge role in couples’ decisions whether to marry or not, and men who are earning less may postpone marriage until they are bringing home a bigger paycheck.”


Glynn also speculates that married men may draw larger salaries because some single men simply don’t become desirable marriage material until they become big earners. “Women may choose not to marry men who aren’t making much money,” Glynn said. If this is the case, then men looking to tie the knot have a good reason to pursue a high salary.

Men and Mobile: Perfect Match for Advertisers

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MillwardBrown has found that, with a few exceptions, men are twice as likely to have positive attitudes toward all mobile advertising formats, as compared to women. Mobile search ads, video ads, display ads, in-application ads, and augmented reality ads resound more with men vs. women. The mobile ad formats where men and women respond equally include SMS texts, social newsfeeds, and ads in mobile music players.


Men Seek Traditional Gender Roles

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Researchers at the University of Indianapolis found that working-class couples who forgo the tradition of marriage are still traditional in their behavior with regard to gender roles and household responsibilities.


In addressing the division of paid and domestic labor, couples fell into three categories: Conventional, in which each partner accepts the traditional gender role; Contesting, in which one partner (generally the female) tries to forge a more balanced arrangement, though often unsuccessfully; and Counter-Conventional, in which the female partner often provides financially and still must perform most of the household labor. Even those men who were being supported by their partners generally lived under the assumption that the man is the head of the household and the woman is largely responsible for domestic work. The responses suggest working-class men – who were far more likely than women to lose their jobs in the latest recession – may be clinging tightly to their privileges at home as they lose ground in the workplace.

More Dads Buy the Toys

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The New York Times reported that for the first time, Mattel introduced a Barbie construction set for the 2012 holiday season. The toy underscores a huge shift in the marketplace; fathers are doing more of the family shopping. Consumer surveys show men are increasingly making the buying decisions for families, reflecting the growth in two-income households and those in which women work and men stay home. One-fifth of fathers with preschool-age children and working wives said they were the primary caretaker in 2010. In addition to developing girls’ science and math skills, such toys (traditionally reserved for boys) provide dads an opportunity to join in their daughters’ play in a context more familiar to them.


Men More Likely To Cut Ethical Corners

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Studies of American men indicate that—in competitive contexts—men have lower moral standards than women because they seek to prove or defend their masculinity. This pattern is particularly pronounced in arenas in which success has historically been viewed as a sign of male vigor and competence (e.g. business negotiation).


A recent series of studies by Laura Kray and Michael Haselhuhn suggests the root of this pattern is socio-cultural in nature, rather than genetic. The scientists suggest that losing a “battle,” particularly in contexts that are highly competitive and historically male oriented, presents a threat to masculine competency. Apparently manhood is relatively fragile and precarious, and when it is challenged, men tend to become more aggressive and defensive.