Practical Ecommerce

Observations on Marketing to Men

Male shoppers may be more difficult to reach with Internet marketing than their female counterparts in an era focused on social sites and so-called gender-neutral media.

Sites like Facebook and Pinterest have rightly become a major focus for Internet marketers. In the case of Facebook, there is a huge user base — 955 million at the end of June 2012 — while Pinterest is the hot new property of the moment. Both sites, along with just about any other social media site, can be very cost-effective ways to engage potential customers.

Men Are Harder to Reach on Social Media

Without taking anything away from social media marketing or even Internet marketing more generally, it may be that reaching men with promotional messages has actually become more difficult in the midst of the present social media marketing craze.

For example, depending on which estimates one trusts, somewhere between 68 percent and 80 percent of American Pinterest users are women. Meaning that as great as pinning may be for general online marketing, it might not be a good choice for targeting men.

Similarly, there is a significant amount of data indicating that men are far less likely to engage on Facebook. In February, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that women were almost twice as likely to post Facebook status updates as men were.

Finally, if you checked out Pinterest’s Facebook page, you would find that some 97 percent of the Fans are female.

With so much online marketing focused on social sites, males, in my opinion, may be difficult targets.

There May Be Fewer Male-dominated Sites

With the possible exception of racy sites aimed at men like Playboy.com, there are not a lot of media sites specifically devoted to men’s interests — in relative terms — and the sites that do distinctly serve men have seen pressure to be more inclusive in the name of gender neutrality.

For example, in the August 2012 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, the editors chose to publish a complaint from Tabitha Belshee of Escondido, Calif., who wrote “It’s time for [Popular Mechanics] to get out of the 1900s. I’m offended by the favoritism toward men over women in the magazine….Are you trying to appeal to people interested in DIY — or just the antiquated idea of an all-male crowd.”

To be sure, Popular Mechanics is still a male-dominated publication with men representing approximately 90 percent of its readership, according to the magazine’s December 2011 audit. Strictly men’s products like Popular Mechanics are often described in sexist terms — see Belshee’s comments — implying that there is something inherently wrong with or discriminatory about seeking to serve male readers or specially marketing to men.

There is no similar phenomenon wherein women’s publications or websites — Cosmopolitan, Elle, O, or Better Homes and Gardens, for example — are chastised in the name of gender neutrality and encourage to include more manly content.

The relative decay of publications for men, both in the magazine and website form, means that there may be somewhat fewer sites that online marketers can use to target fellows.

Summing Up

There are certainly some products that are aimed at men. But, recent trends both in popular marketing and public opinion have made it more difficult to specifically focus on men. In fact, I bet that some readers, will consider these observations, well, sexist.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Toolstop August 9, 2012 Reply

    As a website selling a male oriented product – Professional Power Tools – Toolstop has found it hard to attract men through our social channels.

    Men , especially those who use power tools all day long just don’t want to share your content to their mates for some reason?

    We see this changing in the coming years as the younger generations come through, however, we keep blogging away, posting on facebook and tweeting in the hope that the Jobsite will eventually catch on.

  2. Armando Roggio August 9, 2012 Reply

    I agree. Tools may be hard to market via social. I am not sure that the next generation is going to help. Most social media users are in their 30s. Mobile, in my opinion, is the channel of the young.

  3. Elizabeth Ball August 9, 2012 Reply

    I sell gifts which primarily appeal to women and so I do find it harder to market to men but have been surprised how many sales I’ve made through LinkedIn. Men browse through it more often than you may think and if you answer something relevant, they may click on your profile and go through to your website.

  4. Carlos Rivera August 10, 2012 Reply

    I, clearly, am no expert on this subject. But my instinct suggests that men are harder to market to because they are inherently attracted to the least-social ends of the web.

    I think what excites and engages men are what I refer to as ‘cold marketing’: product specifications, technical attributes, and descriptive detail.

    Social web is highly emotional and men are long-known for avoiding emotional discussions.

    They don’t need 10% off or social engagement for assurance.

    To market to a man and make a him feel comfortable: give him the product, point him to the register, and show him the door.

  5. Elizabeth Ball August 11, 2012 Reply

    But Carlos, that works in a B&M shop – how about in online retail where you can’t just give him the product, point him to the cash register?
    And I disagree about you can’t appeal to their emotions. What about appealing to their emotions of looking good, pleasing their partners, being a success etc?

  6. Cristina Sierra August 11, 2012 Reply

    There are a few male oriented sites that are using social to target men; sites like Bonobos (custom made clothes for men) and manpacks (subscription based underwear, razors, and toothbrushes). It seems they use video more, which makes sense – quick messages involving humor – to target men. Then again, this also works for women.

    I’m developing a site that targets successful, business oriented men and women who live in cities and I believe they share a lot of the same characteristics so I plan to use social channels to target them similarly. I find this audience tends to be time crunched, value convenience and service, and have large networks.

    Perhaps the issue is in trying to target "men" which is too broad a category. Instead, maybe address a particular market ("active men", "professional men ages 28 – 50" and identify the dominant characteristics to find the right social approach.

  7. jvortega February 6, 2013 Reply

    Marketing to men has definitely proven to be a challenge for me too. A gift site just for men http://www.giftwoo.com.

    Wondering if Maxim, Men’s Health, Inc, Forbes, etc. would be the place to go.

  8. Tabitha Belshee November 17, 2014 Reply

    I’m Tabitha and that’s my comment. This is old so I don’t know if anyone will see this BT I’ll try anyway. I think something important was left out. There’s a difference between masculinity and male, just like feminine doesn’t immediately mean female. I’m female but I have some masculine interests, like DIY projects. So I’d like to see a more gender-neutral interpretation of masculine things. Some men are feminine and some women are masculine. Trying to sell masculine products to men eliminates possible consumers who are female. Just like seeing only men on the timeline of a masculine magazine missed part of their target audience- my part.

  9. Lisa July 28, 2016 Reply

    Because men want to be in charge. They hate being influenced and victimized. It emasculates them. It’s no wonder they are very intimidating, especially to women.