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The Differences Between Men and Women--Part III: The Profit in Understanding What Makes Men Tick

Guy Lewis, PhD March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

The business community is quite aware of the growing trend in male consumerism that currently is taking place in the spa and wellness industries. Historically, spa owners have built their environment, staff and product lines with the female clients’ interests in mind. A consumer shift has taken place in this arena, and now the old business concept must shift to accommodate these changes and stay current with market demands.

The male grooming market for 2006 was close to $2 billion. It is expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2008 and $7.2 billion by 2010.1 The International SPA Association (ISPA) reports that in 2005, 31% of spa visitors were men. Of this number, 12% visited male-only spas. There was a 3% increase in men visiting spas in just one year, and the demand for gender-specific, especially male-only products, was and continues to be very strong.2 As was noted earlier in this series, there is a perceptual and kinesthetic—as well as emotional—difference in the manner in which men and women approach the world around them. Early neurobiological blueprints for male and female visual, emotional and kinesthetic interaction is further fortified with sociological stereotyping that takes place through the teenage years, resulting in a set pattern of reactions to people, places and things.

Look at the differences found between men and women in action in a recent study by the University of Alberta as published in Science Daily (2005): A group of male and female volunteers agreed to negotiate a large maze that contained specific landmarks, then find their way back to the starting point. The results from the study showed that on average, men made it back to the home starting point more than three times faster than women did. After completion of the maze, the participants were asked to describe the route through the maze. It was cited that women could recall various landmarks in detail that were located throughout the maze. For men, on the other hand, the entire trip was a blur as they reported that their task was to get to the end. Men focused only on the single task. Women had structured their way through the maze by utilizing whole brain functioning. This finding suggests that there are explainable reasons as to why men have different sensations than women.

Shift in paradigm

Gender differences slowly are beginning to erode as roles and responsibilities increasingly blur. This shift in paradigm also holds true for the gradual dissipation of rigid stereotypes of what is perceived to be either male or female. A procedure, practice or product that once was identified as feminine is moving toward a definition of neutral. Men engage in processes that were once deemed to be effeminate. An example of this shift was witnessed by the coining of the phrase metrosexual, which was introduced approximately three years ago and already is considered outdated by the cultural hipsters.

The growth of equality at work has further softened lifestyle distinctions between the sexes. The male population and its age makeup are changing slowly; more slowly than women. This author suggests that this may be due, in fact, to the neural circuitry in men and women that may, like other forms of adaptive development, adjust to incoming sensory perceptions.

Trend analysis of the shifting roles of males and females is helpful in order to better understand the dynamics of the new spa and relaxation seekers. These trends have been thoroughly researched and validated by market research driven by the potential growth in profit from existing brands such as spas, techniques or products. The shifts in role definitions are important to keep in mind when reviewing the following for strategic positioning of your product.

Personal care

Male attitudes toward appearance suggest a greater willingness to adopt personal care regimens. This is noticed as men are spending more on personal care products and spending per occasion—anytime outside the household—at category levels that are surprisingly close to that of women’s spending. Market research reports that skin care and maintenance is one of the fastest-growing categories, but male grooming behaviors and needs do not follow a straightforward age-related pattern. It is not a consistent finding that all levels are harmonious in their outcome.

Younger men tend to be less skeptical about spas’ beauty regimens and enhanced treatments. This group of young men represents those who are open-minded to visiting a spa because they have been exposed to male grooming and the need for taking care of themselves by relatives, peers and the media. They are considered to be smart, savvy, Internet-educated shoppers and consumers, open to new ideas and educated about their options.

The older generation of men, in particular the baby boomers, still value the service and number of services engaged in as the primary rationale for having the service. They are more practical and thrifty, and often are more hesitant to try additional services without the proper education and guidance. As consumers, older men are the biggest personal care spenders, but occasions for spending vary far less than for those who are younger. This means although an older man will pay more per visit, he will tend to visit less than younger men who spend less, but visit more.

One particular finding that validates the information offered in this series is that men of all ages are interested in the functionality of the products and remain skeptical of claims largely through lack of their own knowledge. Men remain a steady target audience for appearance-related supplements, and beauty nutrition is outgrowing its traditional target audience in general. Of most importance with this trend is that beauty benefits can be tailored to suit male needs.

Recommendations

Target all male groups using age-appropriate strategies. For example, be creative and edgy for the younger crowd, and more sedate, educative and benefit-oriented for your more mature crowd. Remember to use humor and honesty to target younger age groups as they warm easily to this approach. Learn to vary the strategy for targeting male seniors depending on the technique or treatment you are suggesting. Stock your retail area with age- and problem-specific men’s skin care products. Men prefer to buy products made for men, not the product lines that often are carried and aimed specifically for women.

In general, the challenge is to transmit to men the message that using personal care to relax is not unmanly. This can be achieved by creating more convenient, fun and goal-oriented treatments to increase spa visits and away-from-home occasions. Remember that men are more goal-oriented than they are process-oriented. Men seek out products and services based on their understanding that they will deliver effective, visible and practical results. Use this information to strategically streamline your rationale as to why men should visit your establishment for the services as opposed to them doing it at home.

Use nontraditional channels to build consumer understanding of product benefits and create techniques where the benefits fit credibly with your proposition. Several trends are driving the skin care market, some moving on independent parallel paths and others influencing each other and spawning new areas of growth. That said, there is no one best way to approach marketing to all men; rather, assess your target groups by socioeconomic and demographic strata that will give you more options for reaching the male population. Skin care is becoming increasingly high-tech but at the same time there is growing popularity in natural and organic products. This holds true for the savvy man who is part of the “green” movement taking place throughout the wellness community.

Recap

This series set out to explain some of the reasons behind why men and women view the world in which they exist differently. It is not at debate that differences exist, as they are apparent in everyday living. What is important is to recognize what variables work in the best interest of your establishment to capture the current growth of male consumerism. As was noted earlier in this series, the aim is not to reinvent the mousetrap. What is instrumental in the growth and maintenance of your market share is to use past and present research to capture this particular trend while still in its infancy. Your challenge is to assess, instrument, validate and maintain any changes necessary to your environment which will, in return, provide an inviting and receptive atmosphere for the male consumer.

References

1. www.marketresearch.com, “Trading Up Opportunities in Male Grooming: How To Profit By Going Beyond The ‘Metrosexual’ Myth” (Accessed Dec 14, 2006)

2. www.experienceispa.com, ISPA findings for 2006 conference (Accessed Dec 14, 2006)

General references

KM Bishop and D Wahlsten, Sex differences in the human corpus callosum: myth or reality? Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 21 (5), 581–601 (1997)

ME Frederikse, A Lu, E Aylward, P Barta and G Pearlson, Sex differences in the inferior parietal lobule. Cerebral Cortex, 9 (8), 896–901 (1999)

J Harasty, KL Double, GM Halliday, JJ Kril and DA McRitchie, Language-associated cortical regions are proportionally larger in the female brain. Archives in Neurol, 54 (2), 171–6 (1997)

T Rabinowicz, DE Dean, JM Petetot and GM de Courten-Myers, Gender differences in the human cerebral cortex: more neurons in males; more processes in females. J Child Neurol, 14(2), 98–107 (Feb. 1999)

TE Schlaepfer, GJ Harris, AY Tien L Peng, S Lee, and GD Pearlson, Structural differences in the cerebral cortex of healthy female and male subjects: a magnetic resonance imaging study. Psychiatry Res 61(3), 129–35 (Sept 29, 1995)

BA Shaywitz, et al. Sex differences in the functional organisation of the brain. Nature, 373 (6515), 607–9 (1995)

EO Wilson, Sociobiology, Harvard University Press (1992)

Editor’s note: This feature is the final installment of a three-part series that explores the vast differences that exist in the visual, kinesthetic and emotional processing centers in the brains of women and men, and how this affects the manner in which both sexes approach or avoid people, places, products and procedures. This part of the series explores how these early developmental stages and socioenvironmental processes form the foundation for a person’s visual, kinesthetic and emotional responses to the behaviors of others and themselves. Also discussed will be the expected outcome of a person engaging in a behavior and how this potentially can aid business owners in increasing their profit centers.

 

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