I let my boyfriend use my Clinique moisturizer. I have never thought to buy him a bottle of his own and I’m not sure he’d like it if I did. As liberated as we may be from traditional gender roles, it’s still difficult to sell American men on products they’re used to seeing in a woman’s cosmetic arsenal. (Especially products with frou-frou French names.) So how do you make what’s in those bottles and tubes seem manly? Here are a few product naming strategies.
Make it no-nonsense. Most guys don’t want to feel like they’re fussing with their appearance. So appeal to their practical side. Kiehl’s dubs its skincare line “Facial Fuel.” Jack Black’s “Beard Lube” sends the message that male grooming is like keeping your car in good shape. And Zirh’s skin line uses product names like “Clean,” “Fix” and “Defend”-no-frills, active verbs that get straight to the point.
Try a little humor. Bond with male customers with tongue-in-cheek product names that suggest you don’t take this stuff too seriously. Origins’ after-shave balm “Fire Fighter” (which “takes the burn out of shaving”) evokes a strong and masculine American archetype, while the playful pun keeps it light. “Save the Males” moisturizer riffs on the famous bumper sticker slogan, making it a fun item for him to buy himself-and a memorable gift from her.
Amp up the testosterone. Use aggressive imagery or sound symbolism. With its hard-hitting sound and brutish associations, “Axe” clearly telegraphs it’s a man’s line. The marketing is equally hard-line; as you wait for Axe’s website to load, you’re informed that “your mojo is loading.” Other lines that play the macho card are “MoxieforMen,” “Male Species,” “Naturally Man” and “Blood & Guts.” (Ok, the last one wasn’t for real.)
Think sporty lifestyle. Successful cologne brands like Canoe and Polo evoke a carefree, active lifestyle. “Skin Diver,” the name of Origins’ bar soap, is a nice double entendre. And then there’s Tommy Bahama’s Set Sail South Seas. Who cares if it’s a bit of a fantasy? That’s the point.
Appeal to the lower charkas. There’s nothing like the prospect of increased action to get a guy over the notion that grooming isn’t manly. Juicy Couture’s “Dirty English” eau de toilette promises a “passion-inducing mix” of scents (without being totally scandalous). Billy Jealousy’s “Illicit” fragrance suggests a potion that will help men let their bad boy out, and Eclipse Spa is even more direct with their “Sexy Man” line.
Don’t call it makeup. Of all cosmetics for men, makeup is probably the toughest sell. Stars like Zac Effron may make waves by sporting “guyliner” and “mancake.” But don’t expect most straight American males-even metrosexual ones-to embrace the practice anytime soon. According to a 2005 GQ survey, “92 percent of men would not wear makeup even if it guaranteed them a more fulfilling sex life.” Perhaps one day we’ll be more like Europe and Asia, where makeup for men is far more acceptable, and fanciful or even romantic product names flourish. (Witness the popularity of the Gatsby makeup line in Japan, or North Korea’s Man Holding Flower.)
In the meantime, if you want to sell makeup to men, make it sound like something else. Somethingscientific, perhaps. The vaguely clinical term “enhancement” (as in “complexion enhancement”) is a popular malespeak euphemism for makeup these days. For instance, Biotherm Homme positions its Power Bronze line as “instant skin enhancement.” And 4VOO’s “Confidence Corrector” promises a boost of self-esteem and camouflages the fact that it’s more commonly known asconcealer.