Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Metro or Retro? What Kind of Man Are You?

This week's cover story at Business Week looks at the "Secrets of the Male Shopper". What kind of man are you when it comes to shopping? The article boasts an intriguing typology of men's shopping archetypes, which includes, for example, the effeminate male consumer ("The Metrosexual"), the sophisticated guy shopper, who's a bigger spender than his dad and comfortable around women and moisturizers ("The Modern Man"), and the traditionalist who rejects feminism and thrives on manly nostaligia ("The Retrosexual").

Click here for the article's slide show: "A Handy Guide to the Male shopper." Here's the introduction to the article:

A couple of years ago, you couldn't escape the metrosexual. He was everywhere, with his Paul Smith pinstripes, $100 haircuts, and chemical tan. This character became so much a part of the zeitgeist that some regular guys began wondering if they were metrosexual. He seemed hip and urban. Women, it was said, loved him because he smelled good and knew gabardine from twill. And if a man wasn't a metrosexual, he risked being tagged as the metro's alter ego: the retrosexual, a guy's guy who wouldn't be caught dead wearing chartreuse.

In the Age of the Metrosexual, mission shopping (know what I want, know where to get it) was out. A visit to Barneys or Nordstrom became an indulgence in style. On cable, ratings soared as the Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy repurposed the style-challenged as hip and urbane. Condé Nast Publications jumped in with Cargo, a shopping magazine (of all things) for men. From the image factories of Madison Avenue came a slew of ads aimed at the new, preening male shopper. And the folks in white lab coats got busy cooking up lotions and potions with names like Nivea for Men Revitalizing Eye Relief Q10.

Now Madison Ave has turned on the metrosexual. Why? Because he's half the man he was cracked up to be. Not only is this archetype too feminine for most men, he's also pretty rare -- maybe one- fifth of the U.S. male population, according to a recent study by Leo Burnett Worldwide Inc. As for the retrosexual, star of the sophomoric beer ad, he's not that common either. Put all the metros and retros together, and they probably add up to fewer than two in every five men, says Leo Burnett.

So who is the elusive man in the middle of the two extremes? Truth is, marketers are only beginning to understand the secrets of the male shopper. It stands to reason that just as women break down into subsectors, so do men. By targeting just the metro and the retro, Mad Ave has been ignoring half the male population. Largely forgotten are the millions of boomer dads, who shop a lot more than their fathers or grandfathers ever did. Also often overlooked is the army of men in their 20s and 30s who care about their appearance but still like to drink beer and watch sports. The male teen is another big shopper, a sophisticated consumer with the Web research skills to give him an outsize say in family purchases. We don't hear a lot about him, either. (Our guide to these forgotten guys and their metro and retro brethren is above.)
What's my archetype? I'm probably a combination of "The Modern Man" and "The Dad," one who's characterized in the male shopper's guide as "somewhat goofy," and "as likely to be strolling down the diaper aisle as mom is." However, while I'll lay around on weekends in cargo shorts and patriotic T-shirts, I am a traditionalist when in comes to workplace attire, as my earlier post on the decline of the well-dressed man indicated.

By the way, the article cites a mind-boggling Gentleman's Quarterly study finding "that 84% of men said they purchase their own clothes, compared with 65% four years ago." C'mon guys! Time to do your own shopping!

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