Following the RED C Breakfast Event webinar on Tuesday 21st November, Charlotte Butterworth, Managing Director at RED C UK, shares some of the findings and learnings from the event line-up.

As we sat down to plan the annual RED C Breakfast Event this year, the team ran through themes of interest to our clients.  All the usual suspects came up (yes, we did flirt with the idea of another Gen Z discussion!), however a comprehensive Brand Reaction Index (BRI) study completed by colleagues in RED C was the acorn from which our idea grew.  RED C BRI scores revealed something quite interesting; women are more emotionally connected to brands than men.  With so many qualitative researchers in the room, the inevitable “why” came up.  We quickly identified a gap in industry conversation around men and what being like a man looks like today and what brands need to know about this to better connect.

Our webinar event included a fantastic line-up of contributors: Mark Lemon (Associate Director at the semiotics and cultural analysis agency Sign Salad), Emmeline Kite (Head of Strategy at the  creative agency Five by Five), as well as myself and our Research Director Kirsty Koch, as well as Qualitative & Strategy Director, Robin McGhee.

We conducted fresh research into the topic, including a qualitative and nat rep quantitative element.  This self-funded piece presented at the event revealed that while the role of man has evolved in many ways, expectations of men have not advanced to the same degree.

Our findings show that 41% of men aged 18-34 think it’s a confusing time to be a man.  The clash between ‘traditional’ signals of masculinity being defined by physical strength, stoicism and confidence versus ‘modern’ values can leave men wondering where they fit.  As one of our research participants told us, “You’re expected to be non-sensitive and stoic but also express your feelings”.  Navigating this can be challenging, but aligning with a kinder version of masculinity as a ‘modern gentleman’ can feel a more positive space to be.

Greater openness around mental health issues is welcomed, though there is still a way to go on this, with 44% of men agreeing they find it difficult to talk about their innermost feelings, rising to 51% of 18-34s.

These shifts require a new strategy by brands: men feel that very few brands are credibly and successfully aligning with more modern male values and connecting with them at a deeper level.  Only 15% agree that the media representation of masculinity today reflect their own views. Advice emerging from the research highlights the importance of pace in addressing this.  While greater recognition of modern male values in brand communication needs to happen for better connection, it needs to happen slowly.  Quick change can lead to conscious rejection by some.

Mark Lemon from Sign Salad shared a fascinating reveal of the codes of masculinity currently and how the path of masculinity has forked over time and what those varied masculinities look like within culture.  There are no longer one, but many masculinities at play.  Mark reinforced the message being heard from consumers that brands are struggling to keep up with masculine developments and that marketing can often find itself stuck in narrow and dated representations of men and is only recently starting to embrace the abundance of masculinities at play.

Robin McGhee talked through how men are typically addressed through marketing and some advice for brands in how to better connect with and shape the multi-dimensional male.

  1. There is widespread frustration with male depiction in advertising
  2. Mono-dimensional stereotypes are no longer the best route
  3. Men want to celebrate traditional male values without toxicity
  4. No need to remind how unattainable the ideal is
  5. Men derive status from their domestic role
  6. Men are not ready to abandon slagging and deflationary humour

Emmeline Kite from Five by Five concluded the session with some really great work which she and colleagues completed for male-targeted menswear brand Charles Tyrwhitt and tool, accessory and hardware retailer Screwfix.  The campaign which Five by Five developed for Charles Tyrwhitt revealed a male human truth which saw the launch pad for a new and more authentic portrayal of men and resulted in a dialogue built on empathy and shared values, while the Screwfix campaign recognised the multidimensionality of tradespeople in a new product launch.  Emmeline’s ultimate advice to brands speaking to men is to go beyond tropes to find a truth about the audience that makes communications more human and more relatable – and ultimately more emotionally able to connect (growing those BRI scores amongst men).

As we summarised within our event, “as a society, we are acutely aware of the evolving needs of women, with brands establishing more meaningful, real, and emotive connections, a welcomed change. However, men are not as connected. Today’s event is an important step to encourage brands to consider how they communicate to men to enhance emotional connections and to recognise the multiplicity of masculinity and masculine codes in society today.”

Click Here to Download Reaching Him Right – Robin McGhee – RED C

Click Here To Download Reaching Him Right Emmeline Kite – Five by Five

Click Here To Download Reaching Him Right – Mark Lennon – Sign Salad

Click Here To Download Reaching Him Right – Charlotte Butterworth & Kirsty Koch RED C UK

Watch the Recording of the Webinar