How to market your cosmetics brand to men

In 2013, men’s toiletries outsold shaving products for the first time in history. Today, the ‘real men don’t wear moisturiser’ myth has been safely consigned to history, but it’s not all plain sailing for marketers positioning their beauty brands for the male consumer.

Here at the tree we've with worked with numerous cosmetics and beauty brands - and those who often have a particular challenge marketing their products to a male audience in an increasingly dynamic and rapidly shifting marketplace. As such I decided to take a brief look into what it takes to market these types of products to men in 2018. 

Crossing traditionally perceived gender boundaries may be more socially acceptable than ever - and rightfully so in my eyes (62% of 18-34 year old Canadians, for example, agree it’s OK for people to experiment with gender) but a sense of masculinity is an important personal identifier for many men, and usually needs to be honoured in any cosmetic marketing campaign aimed towards them.

Beyond that, cosmetics are often formulated, packaged and marketed with female customers in mind, making it difficult for interested male consumers to navigate the range of products available and match what’s on offer to their own needs.

Male cosmetics: a burgeoning market worldwide

There’s no question that the rewards are rich for those who can conquer the male beauty market. It’s booming across the globe, with growth in just about every market from Nigeria to Norway in 2017 and onwards. Fragrance is a big part of the picture, with skincare and facial haircare also boosting the sector.

The mentality of the ‘grooming’ consumer is quite different to the traditional luxury cosmetics shopper. It’s all about utility and efficacy, rather than fantasy and indulgence. There seems to be a general consensus among experts from major brands and retailers that the way to sell cosmetic items to men is to focus on the purpose and value of the product, rather than creating an aspirational brand.

Rather than leading on sensory properties or high-quality ingredients, men’s cosmetic marketing tends to highlight the benefits of using the product, usually in an immediate way. The idea of investing time in a long-term routine isn’t widely adopted by male consumers in most parts of the world.

Successful men’s toiletry lines such as Lynx (‘makes you smell more attractive to the opposite sex’) and Gillette, (‘technology that gives the smoothest possible shave’) have both set a strong example in benefit-led cosmetics marketing for men. In both cases, the focus is on a short-term, tangible benefit.

Packaging that is clean and unadorned is a common thread in higher-end products that appeal to men. Grooming bloggers often cite brands like Malin+Goetz, Aesop and Kiehl’s in their must-have lists. All these brands use simple fonts and pared-down designs that have a unisex appeal, whether in the store or on the bathroom shelf. Tom Ford’s packaging uses bold fonts, dark colours and traditional shapes to evoke a sense of vintage masculinity that’s understated enough to appeal equally to female consumers.

Selfies and the modern male

The rise of Instagram and Snapchat, along with previous-generation social sites like Facebook, has meant we’re used to recording and sharing our appearances with the world to an unprecedented extent. Almost inevitably, as vanity becomes more socially acceptable, we can expect to see both men and women taking steps to improve their looks and optimise their selfie quality, whether through skincare, hair or colour cosmetics.

There’s material benefit in the equation too. Influencers can command significant incomes based on their follower numbers and the quality and frequency of their posts, and influencer status is well-known enough to be an aspirational goal for many. Looking good can be viewed as a business investment if it results in more social capital and a rise towards social media success.

Korean men lead the way

Korea, the traditional home of progressiveness in cosmetics, has long been open to the idea of men in makeup. K-Pop music and its androgynously fresh-faced male stars provide flawlessly made-up role models, and in response a generation of Korean men are out-spending their global counterparts by as much as four times at the beauty counter, according to Euromonitor reports. 

The look is subtle, with Korean men striving to appear youthful and healthy rather than strikingly made-up. Covering blemishes and eradicating lines and wrinkles are key objectives. The use of masks and other products for longer-term skin health is also higher than in western countries, reflecting a deeper appreciation of what cosmetics can offer.

To take a leaf out of the Korean male cosmetics book, male-targeted cosmetics brands can pick up on the ideas of looking young and healthy in their marketing, and also on the idea of wellness and maintenance. Taking care of skin, hair and appearance can be framed as a daily task akin to eating well and exercising, rather than a special or luxurious activity.

How do men shop for cosmetics products?

Online shopping is a popular way for men to purchase toiletries, perhaps reflecting a reluctance to be seen buying cosmetic-type items 'offline'.

Online, it’s possible to research, compare and buy a product without anyone else knowing, and there’s no need to face down the experience of entering a store or department that prominently features traditionally ‘feminine’ items like perfume, blusher and lipstick - an experience which many men (myself occasionally included) can find somewhat daunting, if only because of the myriad of choice so often available, combined with a general unfamiliarity of the 'cosmetic ecosystem'. I realise this sounds like I'm generalising, but its something both me and many of my male friends have discussed in the past, as well as how the landscape rapidly is shifting.

This massive rise and proliferation of online vs offline consumption has allowed us to shop in a way which we've previously never had access to, and as such has had a direct and inevitable impact on our actual shopping behaviour in relation to these types of products and brands - which as obvious as it sounds is still worth noting as it means brands need to update their approach when it comes to marketing their products to men.

Male online shoppers are tuned in to ads in a way that female consumers aren’t, according to Entrepreneur.com, which reported that 68% of male smartphone owners are likely to make purchases as a result of ads, compared to 58% of females. As a result, investing in online ads seems like a solid strategy for marketing your brand towards men, particularly since there’s the potential for precise demographic targeting via social platforms.

The post-gender factor

Traditional gender roles have been rocked to the core in recent years, with high-profile transgender figures hitting the headlines and a growing wave of non-gender-binary people finding voices online - something that the internet has been an absolute boon for. Mintel’s 2018 trend report suggests that the beauty industry is reflecting this trend, moving away from traditional market segmentation based on gender, age and body type, and instead providing solutions for needs and behaviours, such as hair removal, colour and sun protection.

Inclusivity is the name of the game, and a move away from traditionally gendered packaging means it should become easier to appeal to male customers – provided you have something that answers to their specific requirements.

Adding the personal touch

Tailored beauty products that are made to order and delivered via subscription are on the rise, with brands like Kura and eSalon serving customers their own bespoke routine after a questionnaire or diagnostic. If the tendency is for men to shop for cosmetics online, this approach, which offers discretion and convenience as well as specific personal solutions, could be worth exploring.

The success of start-up razor subscription brands like Harry’s, which has been eating into the market share of more traditional razor brands on both sides of the pond, lends weight to the idea. If it’s low-effort, can be purchased online and promises to address specific concerns in a straightforward way, it’s likely to appeal to the male consumer.

Beards, beards, beards

As more men choose to grow beards rather than going clean-shaven, specialist beard-care products are emerging to help hirsute men take care of their carefully-cultivated pride and joy. 

DeWolf Chemical, which provides industrial chemistry formulations for the industry, found that ‘premiumization’ is a driver in beard-care, with men seeking out high-end products that are natural in origin or linked to specialist barber and hairdresser brands.

Pampering a beard seems more acceptable than pampering the skin, perhaps because the innate masculinity of facial hair has a protective effect against any perception of femininity. Whatever the reason, beard-care seems to be a promising avenue for brands interested in the male market. Multi-purpose products, such as oils and balms, can easily be promoted on their beard-friendly properties.

In general we are seeing a massive positive outlook in the way men approach cosmetics and self-care, and there is huge opportunity to be capitalised on if approached the right way - and besides that, people taking better care of themselves can only be a good thing!

Working with brands in the space means we're well versed when it comes to sailing these ever shifting waters - give us a shout if you'd like to discuss a fresh approach to marketing your cosmetics brand to an ever growing - and frankly un-ignorable audience: info@thisisthetree.com or 0203 222 0077