Raise your hand if you saw The Hunger Games this weekend. I don’t imagine a lot of you did, but considering it made a reported $155 million dollars, odds are at least a few guys saw it. The same thing will happen whenever the next Twilight moviecomes out. I would imagine even fewer men will be in line for that one, which makes the fact that it will likely set box office records solely on the backs of girls of all ages that much more remarkable.
The same was true with the book series that spawned the movies, and even on the internet, female-centric entertainment is becoming the rule rather than the exception. Pinterest is one of the fastest-growing social media sites right now, and I can’t think of a single guy using it. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals that increasingly cater to women (think of the ratio of things like spa deals to more male-oriented items). In what feels like overnight fashion, women of all ages have seemingly replaced 18-35-year-old men as the darling demographic for businesses and the marketers who sell their products.
Women are market segment of the moment
Few things in life are both cheap and easy (except for maybe your mum — zing!), but apparently creating and selling experiences that cater directly and effectively to women is one of them. As someone who writes things for others to read, I’m not typically one to outwardly criticise other people’s work, but anyone who attempts to read even a chapter of Twilight would legitimately question the literacy of the author. It doesn’t matter, though, because those books get women. I recall one older fan stating that they reminded her of what it felt like to be 17. Why anyone would want to be reminded of that is a mystery to me, but then again, girls are weird.
Pinterest is so mindf*ckingly brilliant I wish I’d thought of it myself, and it operates on a simple premise: Women enjoy pulling out pictures of things they like and sharing them with their friends.
In contrast, think of some of the products designed expressly for men lately. I don’t think Dr. Pepper has sold a single can of Dr. Pepper 10 to anyone, despite the action-movie archetype in the commercial pointing out that it has 10 “manly” calories. What’s a “manly” calorie? No one knows, and that’s why no one’s buying its stupid soda. Besides, for the last 20+ years, Dr. Pepper’s whole bit was that the diet version tasted exactly like the regular kind, and to its credit, that’s more or less the case (at least to my refined palate). Why, then, if I wanted a diet soda, would I opt for one with 10 calories? I swear to God, if the makers of Dr. Pepper want to hire me to keep them from making horrible decisions, I’ll consider the offer.
Movies aren’t any better. In the last few months, I’ve noticed several trailers that tell me absolutely nothing about the plot. It seems that marketers in 2012 have figured that men couldn’t care less about content and instead will be lured into theatres based on images of explosions and Liam Neeson’s furrowed brows.
To the credit of producers and manufacturers, I think the female demographic has been under-served for decades, particularly in the online space. The things that some women happen to like to do are easily converted into revenue, and when you compound that with the fact that women have more buying power than ever, it’s hard to fault marketers for jumping on a money-maker.
Are men are too smart for advertisers?
Of course, there’s a flip side to that: I feel like a lot of attention is diverted to women these days because men simply aren’t buying the crap that marketers lazily throw at us. Rather than garner high fives and repeated rounds of “Bro, we have to go see that,” many movies that hamfistedly try to cater to men come off as almost insulting. Do they think that all we want are tits and explosions? I mean, sure we do, but with the internet, I can see explosions and fight scenes any time, and thanks to porn, I can find more tits than I can shake a stick at (and believe me, I can shake a stick at a ton of tits). Instead, if I’m going to spend my tightly budgeted dollars on a movie, it had better be a lot more than just guns and boobs.
Hopefully, the era of hyper-masculinity that I wrote about a year ago is on the decline. I’d like to think that men have become a more sophisticated breed of consumer, and the reason that advertisers fail to cater to us is because what we want isn’t as straightforward anymore. When Carl’s Jr. tried to sell us a gigantic cheeseburger by having Kate Upton eat one while appearing to have an epileptic seizure in the back of a car, I’m hoping that most guys sighed and remarked on how much money Carl’s Jr. must have had to pay Upton to agree to that shoot. (And, Kate, between us, it better have been a lot.)
When marketing executives and product engineers take the time and effort to create and sell us something that meets our increasingly complex tastes, I’m sure we’ll be as willing and eager to buy as ever. In the meantime, let the girls have their online pinboards and gutsy, child-murdering female protagonists. We’ll keep entertaining ourselves on our own terms.
Follow Ian Lang on Twitter @TheIanLang.
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