How brands are exploring modern masculinity in their campaigns

Three news releases dropped on to our WGSN new desk recently, all of them highlighting the evolution of the modern male and how marketing to and about men has changed radically in recent years.

First off, grooming brand Baxter of California said it was exploring modern masculinity and celebrating Angelenos “who are living life true”.

Baxter California Campaign Images

It said LA is a city of dreamers, young men and women who are defined not by their race or religion, but by identities that have been formed by their instincts, their journeys, and the city they call home. So for a start, there’s a male grooming brand inviting women into he conversation without them being just a sexy add-on.

The brand campaign, Life Lived True, is described as “an honest depiction that grounds the brand in a modern California culture through a lens that is inclusive of all expressions of masculinity – modern masculinity.”

“Modern masculinity is about more than just your physical appearance,” CMO Yasmin Dastmalchi explained. “It’s an expression of self that is non-binary, gender-agnostic, and blind to race or religion; a way of living bravely, unafraid of stereotypes or judgments. Venturing beyond the ordinary is in the brand’s DNA, where expertise, heritage and trends collide.”

The brand teamed up with agency of record Exposure America and photographer Ben Grieme for a series of portraits, accompanied by scenic imagery, to “shine a light on the diverse subjects, cast from the streets of LA – true to the spirit and culture of this city.”

Baxter California Campaign Images

Baxter California Campaign Images

From the brand’s own female barber to a fencing pro, the raw photography “showcases how the subjects live their lives true, fuelled by passion inherent to who they are.”

Another subject, LA-native Todd Baron resigned from his desk job in pursuit of his passion to become a surf instructor. “Now, living his life true, Todd feels invigorated and free of societal pressures – a spirit that translates on camera through his confident stance and strong sense of self.”

Men really care about their hair

Moving on, the Dove Men+Care brand is celebrating men’s hair as “the majority of men today say the look of their hair is not only important on a regular day to day basis, but that it is also a reflection of their personal style and helps them feel more confident.”

For its new campaign, the brand  spoke to a diverse group of men from all 50 US states to gain insights into their hair habits and preferences and “better understand how a man’s hair reflects his personal identity and cultural interests.”

Dove said the findings captured insightful data that “gives us a glimpse into how real guys feel, and think, about their hair – and will help to better explain why a guy’s hair is so linked to his personal identity.” Try finding a reference to men’s personal identity and cultural interests in a hair ad a decade ago.

Dove haircare and the modern male

Dove and the modern male

So what did we learn?  Well, getting down to basics, 60% of men named frequent washing as the key to maintaining strong, healthy hair; more than 60% style their hair every day and prefer to use hair gel, hair spray or pomade; and 90% look in the mirror to fix their hair at least once a day.

Taking it further, 80% of men believe their hair is a reflection of their personal style, which helps them look both masculine and professional; 20% have been jealous of a friend’s hair; and 33% wish they had hair like their friends… all of which aren’t what we usually expect to hear from men. But the fact that 60% wish their hair looked both stronger and healthier is perhaps more traditional given men’s long-time concerns over impending hair loss.

In fact, 20% of men said they’d give up drinking for a month to achieve stronger, healthier hair. Some 70% also said they wish the man bun would go away and they named football (soccer) players as the type of athletes who have the best hair.

An interesting twist on all this is that the company has partnered with W Kamau Bell, the comedian and author, who has travelled the US to dive deep into cultural topics that are rarely addressed. Bell is now applying his critical eye and light-hearted tone to explore the topic.

“I never knew guys cared, or thought, as much about their hair as I did,” he said. “Hair is a big part of my identity and the [survey] really proves how, as a culture, guys are putting an importance on the look and style of their hair. It’s been really interesting for me to explore. I was surprised that men from all walks of life held hair in such a high regard, and yet reflect their identity through hair in many different ways.”

Dads matter

And finally, away from the grooming arena completely, HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF), along with the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, has launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) recognising the critical role fathers play in the lives of their children.

The public service campaign created by the non-profit Ad Council coincides with Tell a Joke Day and centres on the popularity and growing trend of telling dad jokes. Through sharing dad jokes, the PSAs aim to communicate to fathers that the smallest moments spent with their children can make the biggest difference in their children’s lives.

The ads direct fathers to Fatherhood.gov where users will find helpful tips, tools, information and jokes to help them get more involved with their kids.

An estimated 24m children in the US don’t live with their biological fathers. A recent Ad Council study on Fatherhood Involvement found that most fathers surveyed said that the issue of “father involvement” was important to them personally and most have sought information about how to spend more quality time with their children.

“Although this campaign utilises a lighthearted approach to the subject of effective fatherhood, its emphasis is one of real importance to fathers and families everywhere; that fathers play a crucial role in impacting positively the lives of their children and of their families as a whole,” said Steve Wagner, ACF acting assistant secretary.

The campaign tagline “Take time to be a dad today” is part of an ongoing effort to encourage fathers to play an active role in their children’s lives. Kids are featured in the PSAs re-telling the cherished jokes their dads shared with them, uniquely emphasising the simple moments that a dad and child can share.

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