Green may be the new black, but all the evidence points to one puzzling truth; men are simply not interested in eco-friendly products in the same way women are. As a content marketing agency, we were interested to find out why.
A recent study from the University of Notre Dame found that an interest in saving the planet is largely seen as a feminine quality. Whether we are thinking this consciously or unconsciously – the fact is that irrational gender stereotypes are being projected onto surprising products and sectors.
We look at the issues faced by four industries and products attempting to master the art of manliness and counter the feminine stereotypes plaguing their sales.
Eco-Wary to Eco-Warrior
According to the study, the fact that men are more reluctant to buy environmentally-friendly products and live environmentally-friendly lifestyles is a direct result of pre-existing stereotypes surrounding the notion of masculinity.
Such attitudes are in desperate need of an update; after all, we all have a duty to protect our planet.
The study found that men are far more likely to buy eco-friendly products if the relevant branding reinforces masculinity – brands have reported significant improvements from making small changes to anything from language to imagery and colours.
Meanwhile, while surveying potential customers, a BMW dealership in China found that men were far more interested in an eco-friendly car when its name was changed to “Protection” (a masculine term in China).
While not so serious, the next four manly rebrands are just as mysterious – why weren’t these products unisex from the get go?
It used to be soap and water – but at some point, shower gels and body washes came along and for whatever reason, they were aimed at women.
In recent years, companies like Unilever and Axe have developed several personal care lines that have mastered packaging for men. The interesting part? Axe’s packaging doesn’t explicitly say that it is for men, instead letting the colours and imagery do the talking. This at least implies that people can choose the product they want, rather than the one prescribed for them based on their gender.
Diet soft drinks
Diet Coke did the damage with THAT ad in the early nineties and it has been difficult for soft drinks to recover since.
Upon discovering during the course of research that ‘diet’ was a term mostly associated with women, Coca-Cola rebranded its range of soft drinks to the more man-friendly ‘zero calorie’.
Diet Coke did eventually make a UK comeback as part of a more diverse range of products, presumably when the brand thought that men had evolved to become health-oriented enough.
At what point in history did we decide that only women like yogurt and cream cheese? Think of any TV ad for one of these products – what can you see? It usually comes down to women being served yogurt by exotic men in swimming trunks. Ditto ice cream and chocolate.
The new breed of yogurt for men (“Brogurt”, we think it’s called), is protein-packed, comes in red and black pots and is so thick you can stand a spoon up in it. Ads usually involves a focus on sport and exercise. Weird, in a way, (women exercise too, no?), it is at least showing a tangible benefit for previously alienated male yogurt lovers.
Arlo’s Skyr got it right with its campaign launched in 2015 – the TV ad is the story of the ancient dairy product and its traditional role in Icelandic culture told through the eyes of one Icelandic boy/man.
It seems to us that this is a tricky matter. It’s the pink-toys-for-girls-blue-toys-for-boys thing, only for adults. On the one hand, branding and rebranding according to your target market makes a lot of sense. Even so, branding for men usually seems to rely on a lot of tired tropes – insert dark grey and green/ blue/ orange branding here, insert aggressive product name there.
As demonstrated in the case of Unilever earlier this year, we’re becoming ever less accepting of female stereotypes in ads. Well, men aren’t all the same either. Brands serious about equality need to look for new, innovative ways to bridge the gap. It won’t necessarily be an easy transition – as noted by the BBC, brands are having to cater to a liberal audience while not alienating the conservative audience they already have. This indicates the need for us to try and stay open-minded as consumers as well.