Millennial Men Don't Subscribe to a Traditional Male Identity - eMarketer

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Millennial Men Don't Subscribe to a Traditional Male Identity

May 20, 2016

Romy Nehme
Vice President, Insights and Strategy

Millennial men tend to be far removed from the traditional gender roles that males in previous generations took on. eMarketer’s Alison McCarthy spoke with Romy Nehme, vice president of insights and strategy at VaynerMedia, about what makes this generation of men unique, how they use digital and how brands can effectively engage with them.

eMarketer: What are some defining characteristics of millennial men that set them apart from males of previous generations?

Romy Nehme: The economic recession of 2008 was a major turning point for male identity, especially for the millennial generation. The residual effects of this time period have led to job instability, debt and delayed adulthood, and really undid what it meant to be “traditionally male.” There’s less emphasis on masculinity, status, having a straightforward career path and the ability to provide for a family. At the same time, there’s greater emphasis on men and their relationships with their friends, partners and kids.

eMarketer: VaynerMedia doesn’t look at millennials as one singular group. How do you differentiate older and younger millennials?

Nehme: We focus less on the term “millennial,” and instead focus on life stage, digital activity and the ways consumers view themselves. We find that the pivotal metrics that set apart the older group from the younger group mostly have to do with what they’re dealing with in life and the transitions they’re going through.

“There’s greater emphasis on men and their relationships with their friends, partners and kids.”

We characterize the younger millennials as those going through the first steps of adulthood. This can mean entering the workforce, getting health insurance for the first time or moving into their first apartment.

The second phase of transition centers around entering their first serious relationship, getting married, having a child or buying a home. We strongly believe that these are the events that help define a person’s sense of who they are in the world.

eMarketer: What are the major ways these older and younger millennial males are using digital?

Nehme: The life stages that they’re transitioning through usually influence what platforms they use. The men on the younger end of the spectrum tend to engage with platforms from a more individual perspective. They flock to platforms revolving around news, video and image sharing.

For the older millennial men, community plays a strong role—I think a lot of this goes back to the fact that as we age, our relationships become more difficult to maintain, so they’re looking for a sense of connection. Here, we’re seeing high indexes of reddit usage, as well as fantasy sports leagues. I also think message apps play a really interesting role when it comes to friendship among males in general. They tend to view their online interactions with their friends as important as their offline interactions.

eMarketer: How do millennial men differ from women in their relationship to brands?

Nehme: Males tend to use digital and social in a way that’s more goal-oriented than females. They’ll do less sharing on these platforms, especially when it comes to their personal lives. They tend to follow brands less than females do, and they view these brands differently than women do. Women view their relationships with brands as a two-way street. They’ll ask, “How do I interact with this brand, and how does this brand interact with me?” Men tend to care mostly about their own interaction with brands. They want to know what they can get from a brand. It’s more outcome-oriented.

“We still see really unfair depictions of these men in the way they carry themselves—that they’re narcissistic or totally clueless.”

eMarketer: Do you expect millennial men to adopt more traditional values as they get older?

Nehme: I think we’re going to see millennial men grow up on a unique, divergent path. That’s not to say that the values of yesteryear have disappeared completely. There are still traditionalist millennial men out there who believe in providing for women, paying for dates, etc.

eMarketer: What are some the common stereotypes that advertisers have about this group?

Nehme: We still see really unfair depictions of these men in the way they carry themselves—that they’re narcissistic or totally clueless. The “dude bro” stereotypes are also still prevalent. But I do think we’re finally starting to see different identities emerge. Brands are beginning to do the work to understand men at a deeper level.

eMarketer: What are some examples of brands that have been successful in reaching millennial men?

Nehme: Axe is a brand that has evolved with the times in a really interesting way. They’ve embraced the idea of male self-expression and have helped fuel the huge boom we’ve seen in male grooming over the last few years. Their “Find Your Magic” campaign has done a great job using influencers on Instagram to create a narrative.

Doritos’ presence on Twitch is also really smart. They realize that Twitch—which is huge for both males and females, and not talked about nearly enough as it should be—is a place that makes sense for them, contextually.

GE is another brand that has done a lot in the space. They set up a “lab” at South by Southwest, which had a 12-foot-tall barbecue smoker that used their technology to create the best smoked meat and barbecue sauce. It really connected the brand’s story with the audience and the space.

eMarketer: What’s one key takeaway you have for marketers who want to reach millennial men?

Nehme: Don’t fall prey to the traditional ways of identifying, grouping and characterizing them. Observing them in their natural habitat—especially online—and looking at how they identify themselves can be much more powerful than defining them by their age and gender.

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