Marketing Stuff As “Manly” Is Stupid. Here’s Why It Should Stop.
3:00 pm, May 18th | by Amy Tennery
This week, home fragrance company Yankee Candle released a new “Man Candles” line, with fragrances like “Riding Mower,” “First Down” and “2×4.” Yardwork, football and construction, oh my! That sensation you’re feeling right now is your eyes melting out of their sockets from the sheer stupidity of it all.
And what makes these candles “Man Candles?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. “Change the packing color and name of your product, say it’s Manly and boom!” you have it, The Huffington Post explained:
In case you’re thinking no one could possibly be stupid enough to fall for this, HuffPo has a neat slideshow of other recent “Guys’ Only” marketing schemes that have (so far) panned out just fine:
It’s diet soda. That’s all it is. Diet soda.
But what’s more alarming than a bunch of dumb candles (because really, who cares) is the fact that this keeps on happening over and over and over. A product that’s inherently gender-neutral is rebranded as a “man’s thing” — and sometimes, it actually works.
The most notable and memorable example of this is Phillip Morris’ rebranding of Marlboro cigarettes. The were the pioneer of needless gendering, so to speak.
Marlboro debuted in 1924 with the tagline “Mild as May,” featured in a series of gentle, soft print ads. That’s because they were targeted toward women. Marlboros were women’s cigarettes.
Take a look at one of their 1930s ads:
How sweet. They even had little red tips on the end of each cigarette to keep the smoker’s lipstick from showing.
Then, Phillip Morris decided it wanted to make its Marlboros into a “man’s cigarette.” Did they change the formula? Not really. In 1954, the Marlboro Man was born. They changed the marketing — and argued that smoking Marlboros made you manly. And it worked! By 1955 sales of Marlboros were up 3,241 percent.
Mild as may!
And marketers have followed this strategy ever since. Last year, the prefix “man” because ubiquitous — a little asterisk some dudes wanted to attach to words to make extra, super-duper sure everyone knew they were dudes. Because the alternative — gender confusion — was just so bone-crunchingly horrifying. There was man-bag, manscaping and, yep, “manties” (slang for satchel, waxing and panties, respectively). Ugh.
Yes, you already heard it from your freshman women’s studies prof but I’ll repeat it here: The rigid gender stuff isn’t legit; real men wear pink, et cetera and so on. This stuff needs to stop. It’s smoke and mirrors.
And sure, a lot of ads are dumb. But there’s something insidious about taking a product meant for everyone and making it just for men. It says that even the implication of ladyishness in men is scary. It says that men need special things to prove you’re not us. It’s stupid — so don’t buy it.