Sell beauty to men

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Grégory Benoit

Cosmetics have long been the preserve of women. Now, though, cosmetic products designed with men in mind are seeing spectacular growth all over the world. They make up the beauty sector’s fourth largest market and show no signs of stopping. How do you sell beauty to men? Here is the low-down from Grégory Benoit, International Marketing Director at L’Oréal Men Expert.

A booming men’s beauty market and new attitudes to virility

“The male beauty market is worth an estimated €16 billion”, says Grégory. “It is now the fourth largest beauty market globally after skin care, women’s hair products and make-up.” Although the trend is planetwide, markets are structured differently from country to country. Asian countries have traditionally been out in front when it comes to consuming beauty products. Grégory points out that Korean men use up to 25 beauty hygiene products in their daily routine, compared with a maximum of seven in France, where men spend an average of €40 a year on such products. Grégory also mentions China, where toiletries and facial products account for two-thirds of the men’s beauty market. He goes on to explain: “There are cultural and environmental reasons for this, as Chinese consumers have to deal with high levels of pollution and humidity, which are harsh on their skin”.

“Western men are beginning to embrace beauty products on a massive scale”

But while Asian men have a long history of using beauty products, the big change is in the West, where men are starting to move beyond hygiene products – shampoos, deodorants and shaving products – to embrace beauty products on a massive scale, with face care proving the most dynamic segment to date. One reason for this is the selfie effect created by social networks and new male beauty trends, such as the three-day beard look, hipster styling and manscaping (male hair removal). “In this era of self-presentation and immediacy, the cosmetic industry expects this sector to enjoy lasting growth.” Men’s beauty is not a passing fad, but a deep-seated global trend, reporting 26% growth in the last half-decade. Moreover, it spans all ages, from skin cleansers for teens to anti-aging products for seniors. “L’Oréal Men Expert wants to remain global number-one in men’s face care and to stay ahead in this emerging market.”

Products designed specifically for men

Which products do men buy most? “Our bestsellers are moisturisers and three-day beard products” continues Grégory. The 24-hour Hydra Energetic anti-fatigue product has been a big hit for L’Oréal Men Expert since its introduction in 2004 and is the number-one seller worldwide: “We sell one every two minutes”. With face care and three-day beard treatments, the group responding to the rise of hipsters, who care for their beards daily. “More than one-third of French men and two out of every three Spaniards have adopted the trend.”

“Men are looking for speed and efficiency”

These products are specially designed for men’s skin, which is thicker, greasier and ages more abruptly. A team of 30 or so researchers specialising in male cosmetics are exploring this area in two advanced research centres in Paris and Pudong and in L’Oréal Paris’s applied research centres, which specialise in skin care, shaving, hair, and so on. “We are adapting our products to meet the needs of men’s bodies. For three-day beard products, for example, we developed gel formulas that are 100% transparent, rather than white creams, so that no visible residue is left in the beard.” The formulations also cater to men’s hygiene needs and evoke the “cleanliness” signals that are important to men. “Our products have fresh, mineral scents and watery gel textures so that they are absorbed quickly, because men do not want to spend hours in front of the mirror. They are looking for speed and efficiency.”

Carefully tailored marketing

If L’Oréal Men Expert products are formulated and designed with men in mind, the same is true for product packaging. Where women might buy creams in a jar, men get gels in a handy pump dispenser. As Grégory says: “We make life easier for them”. Marketing is carefully tailored too, featuring greys and metallic tones that evoke science and technology, or bright oranges for Hydra Energetic products, which bring vitamin C to mind. The pitch is manlier too, bringing in references to the things that men love, such as cars, and including words like “turbo” and “boost”. “As a rule, men‘s beauty also has to be sold with lots of instructions, explanations and clear, practical illustrations.”

“Men go online to buy ‘the products of shame’”

Guidance is also provided online, with detailed web content and tutorials on beauty routines for men. Some are funny, including those featuring actress Eva Longoria, who has a knack for talking to men. Content is also designed to encourage online shopping, which men like to do. “Men buy a lot on the internet. Sometimes, this is how they get products that they would not dare pick up in a store – what we jokingly call ‘the products of shame’. These includes things like tanning and tinting products, which are extremely effective and meet a genuine need, but which are not yet totally socially acceptable.”

The last word

“Ten years on from our launch, we decided to change our slogan, ‘By L’Oréal Men Expert’, by adding the words ‘Stay ahead of the game’. The new wording speaks to our determination to stay at the cutting edge of innovation and the latest trends as we strive to constantly do more to satisfy our male consumers.”

Consumption | January 2016