Man power in the pub

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing Soft drink

Blokes: get them in your pub
Blokes: get them in your pub
Marketing has seen a more feminine influence recently but now, real men are back. David Burrows bids farewell to the metrosexual.

For the past few years it's not just the pub trade that has been increasingly dominated by what women want — marketing has seen a more feminine influence as well. Now, real men are back. David Burrows bids farewell to the metrosexual and re-embraces his manly side.

Want to target the male crowd? Follow a few simple rules. First, make us laugh. Second, employ a sexual cliché or three and third, play to our sense of manliness. Job done? Not quite.

While making us laugh will always work — think of the success of ads such as the Budweiser frogs or Peter Kay "top bombing" for John Smith's — the second rule has rung less true in recent years. We've all spent the noughties perfecting the sensitive, well-dressed metrosexual and getting in touch with our feminine side and it seemed gender clichés were out.

"Society dictates how advertising looks, not the other way round, and that means ads can be only as masculine [or as feminine] as society will allow," explains the Advertising Association's James Charlton.

"Of course, some brands like to play up to a male [or female] stereotype, but that will work only if the consumer accepts that stereotype."

And therein lies the rub — because it seems that, after all the hair gel and moisturising, gender stereotypes are back. The metrosexual man is a dying breed, say the advertising chaps.

There's a feeling that marketers have milked the skinny, pale, pretty-boy look to death and have been casting about for a new angle. And they've come up with... real men.

Masculinity is back, says Don Williams, CEO at branding consultancy Pi Global. "You see full beards sprouting on the likes of Joaquin Phoenix and you know it's time to stop

washing and ironing the jeans and start bathing in Old Spice."

In fact, this old-school scent is one of the brands spearheading this return to testosterone — with everyone talking about its new online campaign.

The new ads, which launched in July and feature former American footballer and "real man" Isaiah Mustafa, garnered 6.7 million online views in one day.

This ballooned to break all kinds of records for viral marketing when Mustafa began posting video responses to bloggers, Twitter users and YouTube viewers.

Wieden+Kennedy, Old Spice's agency, managed to do what others only dream of: produce a manly ad for a male brand that doesn't put off women. The semi-naked athlete helps, but the messaging is also inspired: "The man your man could smell like."

Peter Kay doesn't boast the same appeal as Mustafa but the return of his "no-nonsense" character for John Smith's earlier this year was also pitched carefully as "a funny ad for everyone, rather than just a bloke's ad". The "diner" and "antiques" episodes have already aired, with a third on its way.

Targeting men

Senior brand manager for John Smith's at Heineken, Gareth Turner, says the idea is to affect the behaviour of some men without alienating any other demographic.

"Our drinker is predominantly male, but it would be wrong to say our marketing specifically targets men," he explains, keen to re-emphasise the fact that the campaign isn't overtly "manly".

What it does do is poke fun at men, and the way they think. This doesn't tend to offend or alienate women, but instead hits that sweet spot of combining an element of male self-referencing that women can also appreciate and laugh along with, says Simon Bailey, Brand Union's UK CEO.

This tactic can also help broaden the appeal of a "man-brand" to women — which is rarely the case when the situation is reversed [a female in a car commercial is the kiss of death for male buyers, apparently]. WKD provides a sound example with its long-running Have you got a WKD side? campaign.

"Our targeted approach is what sets us apart and gives us a strong identity," says marketing director Debs Carter. "We talk about the things that are important to men [but] whilst the brand often 'speaks' with a male voice, females recognise the scenarios portrayed."

Indeed, the demographic profile of WKD drinkers is not far off a 50/50 split. Many of the ads also have women on hand to "show up the failings of their menfolk", says Carter.

For many years there have been more taboos surrounding women drinking than men, leaving more creative scope for the brands targeted at men. But that may change. Bringing women into the marketing mix is an emerging trend, as more brands seek to portray the unisex drinking occasion.

Neil Henderson was at the agency BBH when it made Boddingtons one of the first beer brands to make women the focal point of its ads. He says the Cream of Manchester and It's a bit gorgeous campaigns made the Manchester ale contemporary.

Henderson is now MD at St Luke's, the agency behind this year's Releasing the British summer ads for Bulmers, which also bucked the trend. Though the cider's core consumer is a 20 to 30-something guy, the ad running currently features three guys and a woman outside the pub, each with a pint.

However, this move to a more female-friendly pub scene over the past few years has left chaps somewhat neglected. This has recently been addressed with male-oriented advertising such as Heineken's Bowtime for Strongbow and Molson Coors' You know who your mates are for Carling, as well as prompting product development such as Halewood International's new Iron Press campaign — The soft drink for real men, launched in June.

Soft drinks for men

The aim is to capitalise on growth in the on-trade soft drinks market — which is now worth £2bn — and the gap in products for men.

"It comes in a big brown bottle, pours like a beer and settles like a beer," says head of innovation at Halewood, Richard Clark. "So to the drinker it feels like a beer and to his mates it looks like one," he adds.

The company is promising "heavyweight" marketing support for the brand, with a campaign that appeals directly to men.

"We are positioning the brand as 'the soft drink for real men' and the marketing campaign currently in development draws influences from how beer used to be advertised in the 1970s and 1980s," Clark says.

This will take the form of consumer press and TV advertising as well as a sampling campaign and online initiatives.

"There are a growing number of men who want to enjoy the pub with friends but do not always want to drink alcohol. This means there will be even greater demand for soft drinks for men, which the on-trade needs to address," Clark adds.

Stocking male-oriented products such as these can help licensees prove they haven't forgotten their core consumers at a time when more and more women seem to be invading the sacred space, as Jonathan Dennys, marketing manager for vodka at Bacardi explains.

"If a brand is positioned towards a specific consumer, it makes sense for licensees to build on this, otherwise the offer becomes confusing and the strength of the message can become diluted." Bacardi is therefore offering all kinds of trade support for its

Eristoff vodka brand, which it is aiming squarely at a male market.

"We've got a strategy to build visibility for the brand in the on-trade by pushing our Black Bull (Eristoff Black & Red Bull) and Long Black (Eristoff Black & lemonade) serves," Dennys says. "These are simple serves, with no garnishes, no mucking about and are perfect for no-nonsense men."


No-nonsense seems to be a popular approach with brands targeting this market — aside from John Smith's famous campaign of the same slogan, take a brand such as Big D Nuts, for example.

The snack has made a name for itself through its displays of packets of peanuts that gradually reveal a well-endowed model. "It's so overtly sexist that it has almost become ironic and can get away with it," says Brand Union's Bailey.

Using sex to sell has been a ploy for years but combining it with humour makes it really sing. A recent example is Hunky Dorys crisps, which used slogans such as "Are you staring at my crisps?" and "Tackle these" alongside images of scantily-clad female rugby players. Though th

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