Last year was the “year of the woman”–with major societal changes taking place in the government and popular culture. However, as that happened, there was growing awareness among male consumers about the benefits of self-care products that promises to continue into 2019 and beyond.
Proof of this phenomenon is quantifiable. Market research firm The NPD Group found that the men’s fragrance market increased by 10 percent in 2018 to $1.4 billion, while skin care was up by 9 percent to $122.4 million in sales, after a slight 1 percent dip in 2017.
Market research firm Gartner released a report in late 2018 showing that male consumers are going online to research the latest trends with greater frequency. Searches using male-modified keywords increased in the past year by 13 percent in the fragrance category, 17 percent in the color cosmetics category and 18 percent for skin care. Social media has contributed to the uptick in sales and number of men’s products available. High-profile male vloggers James Charles and Manny Gutierrez landed spokesperson deals with CoverGirl and Maybelline (respectively), Ryan Reynolds became the face of Armani Code and Adam Levine is now the U.S. fragrance ambassador for YSL Beauty.
Gartner researchers found that as brands seek out a wider swath of male customers, the biggest challenge is to bridge substantial education gaps and drive awareness by developing salient strategies for niche social platforms like Reddit. While each brand takes a slightly different approach on grooming trends (whether they’re appealing to tech-savvy millennials or a more mature crowd), they are all responding to a broader demand for products that address skin and hair types, deliver antiaging benefits and promote overall wellness–with more interesting packaging.
MAN ON THE MOVE
“In the last decade, we went from a bar of soap to [products that] do it all to a pinpoint focus on a man’s specific haircare needs,” says barber Rob Diaz, an Esquire Men’s Grooming educator. “Achieving the right look doesn’t have to mean high maintenance or lots of products. While men have always wanted effective products that are easy to use, the biggest thing that has changed over the last decade is the expectation level of the quality of the products men use.”
Angel del Solar, cofounder of 18.21 Man Made, was moved to create a male-specific line five years ago with partners Aston LaFon and brother David del Solar because (other than the American Crew brand) there was very little on the market that he felt spoke to male consumers that take pride in their appearance. While some salon brands offered men’s lines, del Solar found the packaging to be generic, “with black bottles and chrome-colored lettering, with peppermint and tea tree oils, which had more masculine aromas,” he says.
In addition to a predictable look, most men’s lines consisted of only pomades and beard oils. “We knew from the get-go that there are all kinds of male customers with different needs. We started with a shampoo/conditioner/body wash all in one, as all men want something they can use that will take care of the basics in one step,” he says.
Del Solar acknowledges that most men do not want 35 different products on their medicine cabinet shelves, though they are open to having more products available so they can pick what works for their skin, hair and personal tastes. He also believes that male customers are becoming more knowledgeable about which natural ingredients are actually good for their hair and skin. Diaz, meanwhile, observes that there will be more texture, volume and beards in the picture for 2019 to 2020, driving the demand for products that can style specific looks.
Joanne Hsieh, chief operating officer of Walker & Company Brands, notes that her company set out to change the way people of color think about shaving with the launch of the Bevel Shave System–created by and for men of color, who have their own set of skincare needs. She explains that men of color are also more interested in checking ingredients and doing research before purchasing products to have assurance that what they are putting on their skin is good for them.
“Instead of adapting, we disrupted by creating a problem-solving solution for men of color–the first and only end-to-end shaving system designed to help reduce shaving irritation and razor bumps,” Hsieh explains. “After combating grooming issues from razor bumps to outdated trimmer technology, we continued on to launch Bevel Skin, a game changer in that it addresses skincare problems we know firsthand people of color have, including hyperpigmentation, inflammation and dullness.”
According to Jennifer Weiderman, vice president of marketing for Sexy Hair, the Style Sexy Hair 4Some men's line responds to the common demand among male customers for multitasking products with a cleansing formula for the hair, body, face and beard. “Our fragrance for men’s products is certainly different than what we make for the female audience,” Weiderman says. “However, while men’s fragrances will continue to be big, in hair products, it is important for the scent to be manly but not overpowering. Also, male customers are definitely slower to embrace the natural and organic trend than female consumers.”
While men may be slower to adopt natural products, Diaz believes this trend is growing with full force. “I do think that male customers will get on the train for organics,” he says. “Skin as well as hair care are matters of health just as much as they are beauty. Not to be repetitive, but with education comes acceptance. So, I see even the manliest men open to things that will benefit them, especially if they’re organic.”
There is a consensus that while men want convenience, they are also likely to ask for recommendations from their stylists and gravitate towards products used during their services. Weiderman notes that to get that message to both general consumers and stylists who can drive sales in salon, retail and specialized shops, Sexy Hair invests in trade advertising, Spotify advertising and partnerships with online sites where men seek sports and fitness information.
“In ‘man talk,’ the body matters, but it’s what is under the hood that really counts. We made sure to make it known that we put in some of the best vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help with issues like premature balding, graying and promoting the look of fuller and thicker hair,” Diaz says of the Esquire Men’s Grooming line. "Getting the word out is our mission, so what good is it to have a great [men’s] product if no one knows about it or its benefits? We must make a decision as professionals to raise our standards [in educating customers], as we do so much more than just hair.”
As women’s beauty trends evolve, men’s grooming trends are changing just as quickly. “The Justin Bieber look so many guys copied a few years ago was sported by Bruce Lee 40 years earlier,” del Solar observes. “Today’s barbers realized that when ’70s looks came back, men wanted a modern spin on them, and certain products helped men wear those styles. Also, ingredients are evolving.”
Del Solar’s Prohibition-inspired products are a testament to where he sees the men’s category moving towards: a sophisticated yet rebellious look inspired by the 1920s. “I predict styles from the 20th century will repeat through the decades in the 21st century, but be interpreted in new, modern ways,” he says.
While packaging, messages and influencers all play a role in the uptick of men’s product sales, male customers ultimately need to be able to see and experience the products before making a purchasing decision. Of course, salons, mass-market stores and small boutiques have had men’s sections for years. Yet, the rub is that those stores also have massive offerings for women making it challenging for even the most patient and determined men to persist in finding their designated area, which often pales in comparison in terms of scope and scale.
Weiderman advises retailers to have displays that show men how to use the products and create the looks they can achieve with them, along with testers. It is also important to offer samples when possible so customers can try before they buy.
Hsieh stresses education at shelf-level is key, particularly in self-serve retail environments. “Retailers who invest in an open and inviting footprint for the men’s grooming category will win,” she says. “For brands, maximizing and optimizing packaging to tell the brand story, product key benefits and education on skincare routines will win. ... We designed our packaging to be aspirational and appeal to men of color ages 25 to 44 prone to skin inflammation, men who are appearance-conscious and who already have an existing skincare regimen/routine.”
Diaz further echoes the need for store and salon owners to have designated sections for men’s products, with subcategories for hair care, beauty and skin care. He warns not to group men’s shampoos with women’s shampoos just for the sake of saving space. “As I used to work retail and built displays, I understand the need for schematics. However, when catching certain fish, you use certain bait,” he says. “We need to be intentional in our displays and have a real men’s section–not just a sign or a shelf with a few products. We obviously see the growth and need for men’s products, but let’s capitalize on it by making it easier and more accessible.” The bottom line? If store and salon owners really want to grow their men's grooming business, they have to commit and invest in making a viable area designed specifically with men in mind.
The 18.21 Man Made brand sets itself apart with elevated designs that inspire men to update their grooming routine. Del Solar says that in addition to eye-catching packaging, men’s products should be displayed at eye level so men feel welcome in that retail space. Some products should even be made available near checkout to inspire an impulse buy that may lead to better self-care habits down the road. Of course, the added sales on top of barbering services can help increase a salon's profits.
“New money happens anytime you can make a dollar today that you did not make yesterday,” del Solar says. “If you add new men’s products to your retail mix, and a man comes into the shop with his girlfriend and sees them, they will become enthusiastic because there is something for them that is new and different. This adds to the bottom line.”
He also suggests that salons integrate products with a “cool factor,” and to stock niche brands that your competitors lack. The goal is to signal to customers that you want to help improve their self-esteem with customized solutions.
No matter how your store or salon appeals to this growing customer base, one thing is clear: Men’s grooming products will boost your bottom line!