The Dream Man, 21st Century-Style
To the men we love (and the companies that market to them).
If your love game is throwing you a curveball, don't get down on yourselves! It's not entirely your fault. With Valentine's Day upon us, we shuffled through a pile of men's magazines and realized we face a romance re-education crisis. Follow the messages in the media, and guys, you'll likely end up home alone with your big-screen TV.
Whether you're 17 or 27, it has become dangerously easy to get the wrong advice. Take caution: Too much time spent sculpting your abs could leave us wondering if you can bench press more than your IQ in weight. Beware, that designer GQ outfit might look so showy that girls will read you as vain and effeminate. As for that white-hot sports car, it could be screaming "insecure playboy," not "guy to date."
Even the classic romantic gifts the market tells guys to buy—the giant 10-pound chocolate heart or sexy lingerie—are land mines waiting to be stepped on. "Thanks for that chocolate, sweetie, I'm certain my thighs will enjoy it," she may say. "Sweets, is this skimpy lace number a treat for me…or for you?" (Hint to honey: Boxer shorts and a comfy tank top are a much better bet).
The problem is that most romance-related marketing is seriously outdated and hasn't accounted for the seismic shifts in girl culture. The role of women in society is evolving: They're now ambitious, equal contributors in areas guys used to dominate, including school, sports, work, and politics. With that change comes a new definition of what makes a man hot.
What do modern girls want? We desire modern guys we can respect as equals. Guys are attracted to strong, intelligent, independent females who can hold their own. Similarly, a girl thinks a guy who's willing to participate as an equal partner in classically female roles is a total catch. When the guy is willing to pitch in and contribute to maintaining a quality, supportive relationship—activities that used to be a "girl's" responsibility—it's a complete turn-on.
From the moment we start dating, to our first live-in partner, to taking the plunge and marrying, here are some 21st century turn-ons to try out:
Sexy is communication. The more independent and self-sufficient girls become, the more we want our guys to be our best friends. We seek an intellectual and emotional connection. In a girl's world, friendship means talking, which is why girls are constantly communicating with one another.
So listen up guys: A few spontaneous e-mails, phone calls, or text messages during the day can have a big payoff. Phone companies searching for a chance to win points with everyone should offer up a girlfriend plan with, say, a reminder to send that midday message…or packages of girl-friendly ringtones and songs he can pick through and deliver to her inbox, just to let her know she's on his mind.
Sexy is playtime partnership. Playtime keeps the spice, spontaneity, and adventure in a relationship. Girls are traditionally the social planners, from organizing a big vacation to making a simple dinner date with friends. If girls have to plan the entire social calendar, it becomes a chore. On the other hand, if guys step up to the plate and take the initiative to plan the date, including coming up with creative new ideas—believe us, it's totally attractive.
How can marketers benefit? By helping our men along. The entertainment and travel industry can target guys, pushing them to be more involved in planning everything from a romantic night at the movies to a hot weekend getaway. Avis (CAR) could help him "take her to the beach this weekend," while Regal Cinemas (RGC) could give him the inside scoop on the "chick flick" she really wants to see.
Bring your sexy into everyday domestic. As we go through college and get our first live-in boyfriend, we quickly realize that guys who can cook, clean, or do laundry are beautiful things. Girls are every bit as busy as guys. When a guy pitches in to help take a bit off her plate, it demonstrates that he doesn't assume housework is a girl's duty. But more importantly, it means he supports her as she pursues her passions.
Domestic partners are sexy for many other reasons. Many couples are so busy, it seems most of the time they spend together is when they're cleaning or doing chores. Modern romance comes from little bits of quality time that couples create together. Why not make chore time romantic and fun?
What can marketers do to help men become sexy domestics? Put a clever twist on something that's a routine. Hoover could sponsor a guy-targeted pro-vacuum—"Sometimes a little sucking up is a good thing"—campaign. The brand would earn the respect of gals, while teaching the payoffs of housecleaning to guys. Why couldn't supermarkets have date night, where "cooking for two" recipes, cooking techniques, and wine samples are handed out? If brands such as Kraft (KFT) or Clorox (CLX) post sassy training tutorials for guys—on how to separate the laundry or whip up fun snacks—these brands would instantly win every girl's gratitude.
As the guy-gal romance equation shifts, it creates an abundance of new opportunities for brands to support, educate, and help our men. Not only will they help to make the men sexier partners but girls will appreciate these brands' efforts and reward them with consumer loyalty as well.