In 1894, one Doctor M Price referred at a gathering to “the proverbial kinds of falsehoods, ‘lies, damned lies, and statistics'”. Zeitgeist was enrolled on a stats course back at uni. Zeitgeist grudgingly took said stats course. Zeitgeist does not like dealing with arbitrary integers. Numbers become imbued with meaning once they are put in the context of reality, not when they are being discussed in a lecture hall. Statistical analysis can help shed light on many things. Sometimes, however, they not only fail to tell the whole truth, they mask a reality.
Prima facie, this graph, shown this past Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, looks like good news for President Obama; the country’s unemployment rate dropped below 9% for the first time since April of 2009. So employment is dropping. How can this be anything but a good thing? Unfortunately, as an editorial this past weekend in The New York Times points out, “the new figures reveal more about the depth of distress in the job market than about real improvement in job prospects”. The editorial continues, stating that “most of the decline” in last month’s figures were because 315,000 people dropped out of the work force, “a reflection of extraordinarily weak demand by employers for new workers”. So what looks initially like cheerful news is in fact worrying and hopeless. It’s enough to make you reach for a stats textbook.
Retailers and brands in dire need of some Sexual Equality
Thanks to an increasing number of ill-advised comments by Andy Gray and Richard Keys and declarations by MP Dominic Raab that men get a raw deal from ‘obnoxious feminist bigots’, sexual equality has suddenly become such a hot topic across the UK that the economy-ruining snow has melted away.
However, before we start preaching about how middle-aged sports presenters need to brush up with what is and isn’t an acceptable way to behave in 2011, we may want to look closely at our own industry and address the outdated way many brands and retailers still deal with the reality of the modern male shopper.
The conclusions of a recent study by Saatchi & Saatchi X suggest that just as women are fully entitled to get offside decisions as wrong as their male colleagues regularly do, so men are encroaching onto the traditionally female territory of ‘shopping’.
The study further implies that the failure to create retail experiences that appeal to men’s needs limits their engagement and that we need a much better understanding of the whole male purchase journey. Their Director of Strategy Simon Goodall notes,
“Men love doing things they can do well. They like opportunities to demonstrate mastery, which means they like to go into a shopping environment knowing the answers to questions they might want to ask.”
Goodall also believes that retailers ought to do more to help men find the information that they need to make decisions before they reach the check out.
This view supports the findings of OgilvyAction’s 2008 global study examining the decisions that shoppers made in store. Managed and analysed across EMEA by yours truly, this research suggested that across a range of categories, UK males were generally less likely than females to know which brand they are going to buy before entering the store.
Anything that helps with that decision making process should be considered.
Craig Inglis, Marketing Director at John Lewis states that men dwell less than women when shopping and are more rational and pragmatic in their shopping habits. Thus, male-oriented areas of the store should be clean and modernist with obvious signposting to help men navigate their way around the store.
However, brands and retailers can begin to engage men long before they reach the store. Goodall cites Best Buy’s ‘Twelpforce’, which offers advice on Twitter as an effective example of a retailer engaging with men and empowering them with the information they crave.
Twelpforce: A good example of engaging men
What’s more, cracking the male shopper is something that will only grow in importance.
Yahoo’s Director of Research and Insights, Lauren Weinberg, commented that while panellists may have inflated their involvement in purchase decisions, male customers’ perceptions of, and interest in, shopping are changing fast.
Regardless of whether some respondents exaggerated their role or not, the results indicate that gender boundaries are disappearing and modern households no longer see grocery shopping as a ‘womans job’.
Within the set that is ‘Male Shoppers’, we also need to understand the different mindsets men have across different categories, retail environments and lifestages. For example, the Yahoo! study found that fatherhood was influential with 60% of dads claiming to be the decision maker across a range of categories including pet care, clothing and packaged goods.
All of this means that brands need to think not only about who they target, but also how they represent men in their adverts.
Domino’s Pizza: Not such a good way to get men onside
Not only do such depictions alienate men, but a 2010 multinational study by EuroRSCG found that there was a “pining for chivalry” from women in the developed world and that “young people want to see demonstrations of male strength and responsibility.”
Chivas attempt to celebrate chivalry
Dove celebrate ‘being a man’
Even a seemingly harmless campaign like P&G’s “Behind Every Olympic Athlete is an Olympic Mom“ Winter Olympics ads resulted in grumbling from underappreciated dads, who still make up the vast majority of volunteer coaches for youth sports.
There is clearly still plenty to learn about engaging male shoppers effectively, though with the Yahoo! research finding that men are more brand-loyal and less focused on promotions than female shoppers the rewards for those who are successful are huge.
Either way, just as it has become clear that old dressing room banter is no longer appropriate in a TV studio, so it is equally apparent that failing to engage such an influential and lucrative proportion of shoppers is just as unacceptable.
Steering the economy toward health will decide the future of advertising more than Web 2.0 or what Justin Bieber tweets. Part of Zeitgeist recently presented to a group of people on the meaning of luxury, post-recession. Those brands that did best in Zeitgeist’s eyes were judged to have done so because of their cognisance of the larger world around them; the context of their communications.
Currently, any wider context should include an assessment of the national if not the global economy. The economy has limped out of recession to recovery (albeit a jobless one), but much danger lies ahead. David Rothkopf, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endownment and a former senior official in the Clinton administration, penned an excellent article in today’s FT on the importance of leadership and management of the economy in the wake of several of President Obama’s key economic advisers abandoning ship. Though slightly off-tack for Zeitgeist to point to such an article, it bears reading by anyone interested in future trends, such as peace and prosperity. Its teachings can just as easily be applied to the hierarchy of an agency and its pronouncement on where the buck must eventually stop.