Marketing makeup to men

The invention of the disposable razor is a celebrated marketing story. Invented by Bic, not a shaving company. The reason Bic got into this market was that they were competing with Gillette in the portable cigarette lighter business. The portable razor was a way of undermining a competitor’s profitability. I digress. My point was, innovation very often does not come from market leaders. It’s largely because they’ve developed a particular way of looking at the market.

I recently had occasion to wear makeup, while shooting a video and I looked so good I wore the stuff again the following day. Just for the hell of it. And I liked it, so there.

Men wearing makeup during the day still carries a stigma and it’s a tiny market. A GQ survey in 2005 reported that “92 percent of men would not wear makeup even if it guaranteed them a more fulfilling sex life.” OK, well there’s 8% of us who’d wear flowerpots on our heads.

I think it’s quite possible men’s makeup will become common but it needs a marketing twist unlikely to come from the big cosmetic brands.

Instead of trying to market foundation, a product as symbolically feminine as brassieres, companies should market men’s suncream with added foundation. Guys are happy buying suncream (in summer at least) and once your metrosexual 50 year old sees the difference that foundation makes, it’s down the slippery slope me old hearties.

Of course, getting a shade of foundation that matches your skin tone is critical if you don’t want your mates in the workshop to beat you to a pulp. So the sampling experience needs to be right. Here’s where I think the Internet plays a role. Men are not likely to want to be seen publicly in the cosmetics department. I think they’ll prefer to experiment at home with a sampler.

I suspect the cosmetics companies are too entrenched in the beauty paradigm to address the male market; the major sunscreen manufacturers – Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co – can own this business. As heterosexual men become older, vainer and less concerned about being labelled homosexual, this market will grow. ‘Ray for men’s liberation!

That’s not me in the photo but doesn’t he have nice eyebrows?



  1. Hi, Bret.

    Of course, few would disagree that make-up for men will be a huge market, one day.

    And you’re right, it’s only a question of the right marketing twist.

    I think sun protection is an interesting entry-point for the Australian market, and other sun-sensitive environments such as California. Let me suggest what I believe could be the twist that gets us there.

    Let’s go backwards a moment. I see two major segments for male skin make-up (we would NEVER call it “make-up of course!). Each would necessitate a separate brand equity.

    The first, for a younger target market, is cover-up for men, i.e. to cover blemishes & pimples.

    The second, the one we’re addressing here, is makeup for older men, primarily to help mask aged skin. I see the primary target market as ABC, 30-50, white-collar.

    The problem in selling this product is obvious to us all. As you put it, a stigma. How do we overcome that?

    The answer is WE DON’T ADVERTISE TO MEN. WE ADVERTISE TO WOMEN. We advertise to the husbands & girlfriends of the target market.

    What do we tell them? That this product is to protect their man’s skin from the sun, AND to make him look BETTER AND HEALTHIER.

    The product would be bought mostly by women. Which is fine because …

    • Women buy most male products anyway.
    • Women complain that their men are difficult to buy for.
    • Women can select the correct shades, an important factor as you point out.
    • Most men wouldn’t be seen dead buying the product, at least at first, for the reasons you also said.

    NOW HERE’S THE KEY … THE WOMAN MUST (at least initially) apply the product to their man’s skin THEMSELVES.

    Why? BECAUSE THE MAN WON’T and CAN’T. Unless he thinks it’s a sun-protection cream, and then he’ll only apply it before he goes to watch the cricket. He won’t for many reasons incl. he’ll be afraid to use too much, apply it in the wrong places etc.

    THE WOMAN MUST SHOW HIM HOW TO APPLY IT. Why will she do this? To prove to him that she cares both in his well-being and in his appearance. To a degree, if he looks good, she’ll look good. And if he looks bad ….

    And he knows that (at least initially) she’ll know how to apply it better than him.

    Obviously, the product’s website would help explain the application process, but let’s face it, only a small minority of men would do this research.

    When would the man be encouraged to wear the product? As much as possible. Daily if possible. Certainly in the morning before going to work. NOT just at social occasions … after all, this is not a “cosmetic”.

    CAVEATS! The product’ benefit communicated to women must NOT be to make her man look YOUNGER. After all, few women want their man to look younger than them! And one benefit of the product must NOT be to give the man confidence, eg amongst women (such as after-shave lotion might).

    In essence, the benefit must be HEALTH focussed, not cosmetic focussed. (And aren’t 90% of new products health-focussed today?)

    The product would also need sensory stimulants to make his skin feel better (i.e. HEALTHIER), and similar fragrance attributes.

    John Emmery
    Marketing and Business Advisor

  2. Thanks John; thoughtful input as usual. Agree that marketing it to women would be a sensible option. Should have thought of that *slaps forehead*.

    As to what proposition is used, e.g. should you say ‘foundation’ or ‘coloured suncream’ or ‘textured suncream’, you’d obviously do some serious psychological market research on that.

    Further thought: once you’ve sold the suncream product you might let purchasers know they can buy a ‘wintercream’ product which has the identical colour and texture but no sunscreen.

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