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Soft-soaping the tough guy
Soft-soaping the tough guy
Catherine Dawes, Packaging News, 07 May 2008
Sex sells. And nine out of 10 men think that cosmetics give them more pulling power than a car, according to research by Boots before the launch of its No7 For Men skincare range. It seems men are buying in their droves; sales of male grooming products have trebled since 2002, with £781m spent in the UK last year.
The most obvious example is Lynx, which, according to the brand¡¯s owner Unilever, combines ¡°coolly seductive fragrances and packaging with cutting-edge technology to give guys serious pulling power¡±. Millions of teenage boys hope a squirt will bring hordes of screaming girls running in their direction.
Even products aimed at a slightly older male audience play on this desire. German supermarket chain Aldi wanted to give its range of men¡¯s toiletries more shelf standout. Storm Brand Design used an eye-catching red speech bubble with the word ¡®excite¡¯ to capture men¡¯s attention.
When Holmes & Marchant was asked to design the packaging for Lynx shower gel, the design agency tried to find out what else matters to teenage boys. It gave men and women aged 18-21, in four countries, a questionnaire and a disposable camera with which to answer the questions. The project produced images of girlfriends/boyfriends, family, celebrities, gadgets, cars and lots of trainers. Chairman Andrew Doyle explains that trainers were chosen as a cross-cultural aesthetic. The shower gel bottle produced has a rubberised look, with grooves and bumps to resemble trainers.
¡°The adolescent market is very unsophisticated,¡± says Nick Verebelyi, head of 3D structural branding and packaging at Design Bridge, which has worked on projects for Lynx and Brylcreem. ¡°They are impressed by gadgets and technology, and like to be able to open the bonnet and look inside.¡± He gives the example of Calvin Klein¡¯s men¡¯s fragrance Crave, which is packaged in a translucent bottle with the pump and mechanics clearly visible inside.
Comfortable colours
Verebelyi says that men, when shopping in unfamiliar territory, are unadventurous. As men¡¯s toiletries expand into new areas, the challenge for designers is to make traditionally feminine items appeal to men. To do this, many brands have resorted to a stock palette of ¡®male¡¯ colours. ¡°Men have a limited repertoire of colours they are comfortable with. The men¡¯s section of a clothes shop will have much less variety than the women¡¯s,¡± he says.
He gives the example of men¡¯s suits, which are predominantly black, grey or navy blue. ¡°Men will wear a flash of colour, in the form of a tie or the suit lining, rather than being overtly colourful. Men¡¯s toiletries echo this, predominantly coming in black, grey and blue packs with a little bit of accent colour,¡± he adds.
However, Pearlfisher creative director Jonathan Ford thinks progress is being made, with more interesting designs appearing on more niche products. Pearlfisher designed the packaging for Waitrose¡¯s Skintools men¡¯s range, launched in 2006. The bottles have an industrial look, without using the standard male colours. ¡°I think brown is the new graphite grey,¡± says Ford. The aftershave balm, face wash and moisturiser are packaged in transparent brown PET containers with chunky black pumps.
¡°We wanted to create a timeless apothecary feel that would convey trust,¡± he says. The majority of the front of the labels is taken up with instructions about dosage, what to do and the end result. ¡°Men¡¯s products tend to be more copy-driven. Men want to know what it is and what it¡¯s for. Women might be disappointed by that level of bluntness, they are happier to interpret symbols,¡± he adds.
Dr Tim Denison, retail psychologist with market research company SPSL, believes that men¡¯s shopping habits may also have a role to play. ¡°There are clear differences between the way men and women traditionally shop. Men are on a mission to seek out the product they are after as quickly as possible and get out, whereas women enjoy the leisure experience.¡±
Although this is starting to change, many men still display a grab-and-go mentality, particularly in areas such as toiletries where they may not want to be seen loitering. ¡°Men are likely to pass store shelves at speed, so strong blacks, blues and reds are necessary to stand out. Clearly coloured products also help men recognise what they are looking for quickly,¡± says Denison.
The difference continues when an initial selection has been made. According to Denison, when women are evaluating a product they will pick it up and look at it closely, and may turn it around and read the back or open it up, so this makes the feel of the packaging more important. ¡°Women are much more tactile,¡± he says. In contrast, men take a step back to view the product from a distance. As a result, bolder graphics that can be viewed from farther away, as well as placing information that would normally be on the back of a pack on the front, can make a big difference to the way men see an item on-shelf.
However, Denison says this is made more complicated by the fact that a lot of men¡¯s products are bought by women for their partners. A survey by market intelligence provider Key Note into men¡¯s toiletries and fragrances found that 22.7% of men left the decision over which products to buy to someone else in their household. Almost 40% of men who were married or living as married claimed they never shopped for toiletries.  
Unisex appeal
Some of the success of the ¡®for men¡¯ versions of existing women¡¯s ranges, such as Nivea For Men, is attributable to women shopping for themselves and their partners at the same time. Pack designs need to make the new products look masculine, while capitalising on the success of the female versions.
Design Bridge¡¯s Verebelyi points out that many brands, such as Nivea, have a rigorously applied brand colour that has to remain consistent. This leaves shape and structure as the major tools for designers to use to differentiate male and female products. Pearlfisher¡¯s Ford argues that as the category develops, there is likely to be a greater transference of equity from female products, to create a more androgynous look.
One brand that has been positioned very successfully as unisex is Original Source shower gels. Gus Desbarats, creative director at Alloy Total Product Design, which designed the structure of the packaging, says the original intention was not to achieve a unisex appeal. ¡°It was about having a no-nonsense appeal and showing the powerful and clever ingredients. Off-the-shelf formats weren¡¯t doing anything for them, so they needed custom packs,¡± says Desbarats. He adds that the square-sided bottles and bold black caps were designed to achieve shelf-standout rather than appeal to a part-male audience. 
Desbarats says that the future of shower gel packaging will involve generating loyalty, taking a leaf out of razor manufacturers¡¯ books. ¡°Men¡¯s product loyalty is practical. If they like shampoo A and it is easy to find they will buy A. If they are somewhere that doesn¡¯t stock A, they will buy B. But if you have razor handle A and you can¡¯t find the blades you don¡¯t buy brand B.¡±
He believes that if you can create a shower gel that comes in an effective dispenser and refill format, you start to build loyalty. ¡°Shower gel is only nice when it is foamed. We haven¡¯t nailed the customer experience factor yet.¡± He says attempts to create ready-foaming gels have either failed or been too technical, so gel relies on the user to lather it up. ¡°The shape of the bottle can make a strong impact on shelf, but shower gels need a stronger performance story to ensure customers keep coming back.¡±
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