Leo Burnett study sheds light on global male identity crisis

MUMBAI: Leo Burnett Worldwide unveiled the results of a proprietary global study of men's attitudes and values at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in its seminar, 'Metros Versus Retros: Are Marketers Missing Real Men?'



The agency interviewed more than 2,000 men in 13 countries to explore the evolving state of masculinity around the world and explain the opportunities and challenges for marketers.

The study was presented by Leo Burnett Worldwide chairman and CEO Tom Bernardin, Leo Burnett Worldwide deputy chief creative officer Mark Tutssel and Leo Burnett Worldwide global planning director - beauty care and director of planning for Japan Linda Kovarik.

This study was done following Burnett’s 2004 Cannes presentation on advertising to women, 'Miss Understood - She’s Not Buying Your Ads.'



"There has never been a more relevant time to reassess the state of masculinity, particularly as it affects buying patterns and trends in global marketing. While the world has been focused on women, men have been undergoing some significant changes of their own. An equally comprehensive look at men is long overdue, and it was our goal in Cannes to help put things in perspective. The last thing we want is to look back in ten years and find that we have unwittingly created the same clichés that female advertising is riddled with," said Bernardin.



Identity Crisis

Overall, findings from the Leo Burnett Man Study highlight the disruption of men’s sense of identity due to profound social and structural changes taking place across the globe. The study confirmed that men in most parts of the world are unsure of what’s expected of them in society, with half of those surveyed saying they felt their role in society was unclear. Additionally, a stunning 74 per cent said they believe the images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality.

"As the world is drifting toward a more feminine perspective, many of the social constructs men have taken for granted are undergoing significant shifts or being outright dismantled. It’s a confusing time, not just for men, but for marketers as well as they try to target and depict men meaningfully," said Bernardin.

Metros vs. Retros

The study revealed the existence of a "New Male Spectrum," characterised on one end by enlightened, evolved, modern men - or what have been popularly dubbed "metrosexuals," and on the other end, entrenched, more traditionally masculine "retrosexuals" who cling steadfastly to stereotypical male behavior. Both groups are engaged by the gender debate and see themselves in terms relative to women: either they’re more like women (Metros) or they’re aggressively asserting their difference from women, (Retros).

The agency cautioned marketers against becoming fixated on these men who are adapting - or not - to women’s new power and influence in society. According to the Man Study, fewer than 40 per cent of men define themselves this way: the majority of men surveyed (60 per cent) aren’t caught up in this gender debate and live by a more traditional set of standards for assessing their masculinity.

This larger group is more focused on defining themselves in the eyes of other men, largely by seeking respect and admiration for being successful in their professional life on one end of the spectrum, or their personal, family life on the other. The study dubs these men on the "Traditional Male Spectrum" as Power Seekers and Patriarchs, respectively, and contends they are largely overlooked by popular culture, the media and marketers.

Surprising Findings

In assessing men’s attitudes and values, the study also uncovered some surprising findings.

Men may be more sensitive than we give them credit for: The greatest insult to a man, according to those surveyed, is that "He’ll never amount to anything" (29 per cent), followed by "Everyone laughs behind your back" (24 per cent) and "You’re stupid" (21 per cent).

Men may be less interested in money than happiness: The study participants overwhelmingly said that they’d rather have a job they love (73 per cent) v/s a job that pays well (27 per cent).

Men are torn when it comes to taking care of others v/s themselves: When asked about their ultimate male fantasy, those surveyed ranked "ending world hunger" (No. 1) and "being a world famous sports star" (No. 2) above "being married to a supermodel" (No. 3).

Study Conclusions

In light of these findings, the seminar offered several recommendations for marketers:

Embrace make complexity: There’s more to men than many of the media clichés and stereotypes suggest.

Anticipate male adaptation: Men are adapting all around the world, even in traditional societies and developing markets. It’s part of how they cope with change.

Let the primal man out to play: It’s okay to indulge a man’s sense of masculinity. This encompasses everything from using sex as a marketing ploy to locker room humor.

Grab 'em by the balls: Create smart brand positionings and provocative imagery that register with a uniquely male point of view.

Stop looking in the mirror of today: We need to consider how the changes in society are affecting changes in men. Advertising stays relevant by reflecting the zeitgeist.

Bernardin summarised the presentation as a wake-up call to the industry and at the end of the seminar, reiterated that marketers will miss real men if they don’t tune in to how they are adapting to society’s changes.

He also encouraged the men in the audience to share their attitudes by taking the Leo Burnett Man Study. Additional findings will be unveiled during Advertising Week in New York City in September 2005.

The study was conducted by a team of Leo Burnett planners from around the network in 13 markets including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, India, Russia, the US, China, Australia and Saudi Arabia. In total, 45 focus groups were held in which the agency talked to single men, men with families and older, “empty nester” men.

Quantitative research was conducted in four countries, including the US, France, Brazil and India. In each country a nationally representative sample of 500 men, aged 18-64, was interviewed. Examination of the data included a segmentation analysis, which included over 63 behavioral, lifestyle and attitude statements. Beyond its own research, Leo Burnett conducted interviews and reviewed secondary sources and published data.

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