Millennial & Gen Z males are embracing a new era of manhood and want brands to get on board. We asked them what brands they think are getting it right…
As young men rewrite the rules of masculinity, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to reach them with outdated ideas of their interests—beer, bikinis, and Schwarzenegger-like machismo. Instead, young men today are embracing a softer side of manhood—which we explored in detail in our latest trend, Breaking the Stereotypes: How to Reach Young Males—and many brands are responding by ditching gender norms and labels in their shopping carts and ads. This is not only smart; it’s necessary. We recently told you about the gender stereotypes Millennial and Gen Z males wish advertisers would stop using, and the list makes clear that 13-35-year-old men—who are also adept at ignoring advertising—are looking for more updated representations of themselves. If brands don’t catch up, they risk losing their attention altogether.
But reaching young men is nowhere near a lost cause. According to YPulse data, Millennial and Gen Z males are more likely than their female counterparts to post about a brand on social media, and tend to do so when they have a positive experience. In other words, they’re willing to engage with brands, just on their own terms. YPulse also found that six in 10 young men agree that it’s smart for brands to target messages based on gender, compared to four in 10 women. That means there’s immense opportunity for brands to reach Millennial and Gen Z males; they just have to know how to do it. To help us understand what’s working for them, we asked 13-35-year-old males, “What is a brand that you think understands your gender well?”* Here are the top 10:
What Brand Understands Your Gender Best?
- Old Spice
- Dollar Shave Club
- Under Armour
*These were open-end response questions to allow us to capture the full range of brands 13-35-year-old males say understand them best. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most highly thought of. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.
The success of some of these brands might have as much to do with where they’re reaching young males as how. Dollar Shave Club, Axe, Old Spice, and Gillette have all bought into the up-and-coming world of esports and are reserving portions of their marketing budget for the competitive gaming sphere. This is likely a smart bet for reaching young males. Nielsen’s first-ever esports report found that 70% of esports fans think competitive gaming will become a “’mainstream activity’ in the near future,” and in YPulse’s own deep dive into the trend with Millennials & Gen Z, Esports Levels Up, we found that 50% of 13-35-year-old males are interested in tuning in to esports and of the quarter who already do, 92% agree that more brands should be involved.
Looking at the list, it should come as no surprise to see Nike snatch the number one slot. The brand has topped Millennials’ and Gen Z’s favorite fashion brands list for multiple years running, as well as the list of non-tech brands Millennials find the most innovative. But it’s more than the comfort, quality, and “constant improvement” that appeals to young men. The brands’ social feeds feature a healthy mix of professional athletes and everyday athletes, allowing followers to feel they too could be a part of the culture Nike is creating. After all, 47% of Gen Z & Millennial males say they are more likely to buy a product recommended by their favorite online celebrities (which include athletes), showing that identifying with a brand’s message is important to this elusive group.
Under Armour has similarly captured the young male market with high-profile athlete partnerships and a relatable message wrapped up in cinematic storytelling. For its “Rule Yourself” campaign, one executive said, “Going deep from a content perspective is the win. We love the evolution from chapter one to two (of the campaign), to keep telling the story and go deeper so the athlete feels like they are part of the brand.”
Other brands in the list are taking this relatable, engaged approach as well. Axe’s “Find Your Magic” campaign still hasn’t gotten old—and is clearly still resonating with Gen Z and Millennial men—and Dollar Shave Club has exploded in popularity with a no-nonsense approach to both its business model and marketing efforts. The blade delivery service is known for quirky, unconventional ads that often feature regular Joe’s and rely on comedic effect instead of the standard hyper-masculine models and messaging of old. The rise in popularity of the brand has caused Gillette to jump on board with an on-demand service of their own after seeing their share of the razor market plummet from 70% in 2010 to 54% in 2016. Gillette has also launched an effort to lower the price of their blades, which could have helped the brand make the top ten list.
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