Originally published by the Clarion-Ledger on 2/25/14 and in the print edition on 2/28/14.
The last time I went to the store for groceries, I went by myself. I have to go by myself if I am going to shop effectively, because I can’t have distractions. I did my research, studying up on the deals and finding coupons to supplement them. A grocery trip can easily take an hour or 90 minutes, so I have to carve out enough time. Looking around, I noticed there were a lot of other dads out there doing the same thing. When I was growing up, it seemed that the grocery store aisles were dominated by women. Now, the balance has shifted somewhat. This is an emerging trend, and signals a sea change in how gender roles have changed.
A recent study seems to bear out that notion. Defy Media’s second annual Acumen Report: Brand New Man studied more than 2,000 men ages 18-49. The results point out that men are more involved with brand choices, household duties and shopping. In the study, based on an online panel performed by Hunter Qualitative Research, more than 65% of respondents said they now hold primary shopping responsibility for several household product categories, with 67% saying they enjoy shopping for the household, and about 63% are open to choosing new brands.
“Men have earned their place as decision makers in the household,” notes Andy Tu, Executive VP of Marketing for Defy Media. “In this year’s report, we uncovered the process that men embark on to discover, connect with, and purchase new brands and products. We found that men are not only purchasing in greater numbers, but in many cases they are the ones actually making the brand decisions.”
More than half the married men surveyed (54%) reported buying more of the household groceries than their wives, with nearly 70% saying they actually enjoy shopping. Many said they usually make buying decisions on their own. “The idea that men are mindless, robotic, or powerless in their decisions about shopping and brand decisions is antiquated,” said Tu.
The study suggests that many men make buying decisions in a four-step process, all beginning with “E”:
- Exposure, in which they identify a need. This is often sparked by a life-change (such as moving out of their parents’ house or turning 40), which makes him suddenly more aware that he needs to stop eating so many Chips Ahoys on the couch and start eating more rabbit food and hitting the gym once in a while.
- Education, in which they “play the field”, experimenting with different options. Contrary to popular myth, many men seek direction from others, and seek direction online. Thriftiness is still a big motivator: fifty-four percent of respondents noted that, even if they make a bad brand choice, they will go ahead and use it until it’s gone. (I can attest to this; I’ll soldier on with a subpar product just because I paid good money for it.)
- Experimentation, in which they try out new products. In this stage, the study noted, many men value performance more than price; products that make them look, smell or feel good are worth paying a little more. Products with a “story” are important, and brands that appeal to a man’s need to support the local economy or make the world a better place are likely to appeal to them.
- Eureka! Once a brand has been identified and is now on the “team”, it gets his loyalty. He’ll often recommend brands which perform well to others.
Men are also using technology to help make decisions. Before I go shopping, I go on the store’s website to look for deals. “About a quarter of respondents got information via a mobile device while on site at the store, 31% read online reviews and about 26% watched a video on YouTube during the research process,” noted the website MediaPost. “About 26% of men 18-34 reported using online reviews to research a new brand compared to their 35-49-year-old counterparts at just 21%.”
Companies who want to sell more products should pay attention; it’s a brave new world out there.