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Professor Brett Martin
Professor Brett Martin

Press Release - 12 September 2007

Macho advertisements are putting feminine men off products, research says

Marlboro Man, or his current macho billboard equivalent, is putting off metrosexuals from buying products, research shows.

A new study shows that men with characteristics such as sensitivity and tenderness are put off products promoted by advertisements featuring squared-jawed hunks, preferring those featuring more feminine looking male models instead.

“Advertisers should take note of this research because it shows that many ads could be ineffective,” said Professor Brett Martin, of the University of Bath, who led the research.

“Not because of the product, but because the model chosen and the suggested positioning of the brand, may not match the preferences of the male consumer.”

Professor Martin’s team asked 244 male undergraduates to look at print advertisements showing a mobile phone, next to which was a male model. On one of the ads his appearance was classically masculine, with short hair, broad shoulders and a jacket and tie, on another feminine, with long fair hair and slender build, and in a third he looked androgynous.

Those undergraduates who had, in an earlier study, scored higher for traditionally feminine traits like compassion and love of children, tended to prefer ads featuring the feminine model. Those with traditionally masculine traits like aggression and dominance preferred the masculine model.

Professor Martin, of the University’s School of Management, who worked with Dr Juergen Gnoth, of the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Daniel Carroll, a brand manager from industry, said that some traditional advertisements could be alienating their audience.

“What this shows is that males responses can be divided into two groups," said Professor Martin. "Masculine men, who prefer masculine models and who are scathing about any male model that is not suitably masculine. And feminine men who prefer feminine models.

“Given that masculine models are widely used in advertising, this suggests that there must be millions of men with feminine characteristics who have been put off products that have been promoted using images of tough guys, and advertisers need to be aware of this.

“This is particularly relevant given the current growth in male skincare products which have been viewed as evidence of a profitable metrosexual market segment. Of course, if you are targeting masculine men then masculine models should be used.”

The study found that the evaluations by ‘masculine’ males were twice as favourable when they viewed ads with a masculine model than when they saw ads featuring a feminine model.

‘Feminine’ males' evaluations were twice as favourable towards ads with a feminine model than ads featuring a masculine model.

The study also found that when the ‘feminine’ males were prompted to think of how the product would make them appear to their friends, they preferred the phone endorsed by the masculine model and not the feminine one.

“When feminine men thought about the product for themselves, they were most persuaded by a feminine model,” said Professor Martin. “However, when they were prompted to think about what their friends would think of them if they owned the product, they preferred the masculine model.

“We believe this is because they feel pressure to conform. There was a pressure to endorse the traditional masculine view and they were anxious not to be seen by male friends as disagreeing with that view.”

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