The Rise of the Mansumer is a Myth Created by Men

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on Jan 1, 14 • by • with 6 Comments

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For years a number of years now the prevalent wisdom in marketing circles has been that men brought home the bacon, and women ran the house and ruled the household checkbook. Marketing to women has been the focus and the norm, and with the rise of the Mom Blogger community, this central core of marketing has been the focus of influencer marketing as well. Women shop for groceries, feed and cloth the family, and manage the household finances. They even largely influence the big decisions on housing, car purchases and other big-ticket expenditures. So we have come to market our products with women in mind.

But in the past couple of years we’ve been hearing about a new type of consumer—the “mansumer.” Especially with the economic pressures of current times, we can’t deny that more and more households are dual-income. Combine that with the fact that younger people are marrying later, and we’re seeing a shift in the traditional male role. More men are making purchases than ever before. They’re sharing household chores much more than in the past, and also taking on more duties in childcare. Dad Bloggers are yearning for attention and declaring themselves highly influential and an important target for marketers.

Marketing agencies (mostly dominated by men, incidentally) are looking at these recent trends and suggesting that more attention be given to marketing to the mansumer—and retailers have taken it seriously. From male-oriented “man isles” in grocery stores to car manufacturers producing more macho themed vehicles, even candles with manlier-named scents (Riding Mower and 2X4), marketers are rushing to cater to an audience they’ve been led to believe are supplanting their feminine counterparts.

But is the mansumer really pushing the female consumer off her pedestal? Should marketers really be turning everything they’ve learned in the past decade about consumerism and the female role in it upside-down? I don’t think so.

Hey look—for all intents and purposes, I’m a mansumer. As a single father, I’ve been making my own shopping choices now for years, as I’m sure are many of my brethren. However, I’m not particularly drawn to the “man-isle” when shopping for groceries, nor do I think that men are actually making more household decisions… even most of mine are influenced or directed by women. Truth be told, I think it is more about a cry for attention than a true shift in behavior and decision-making.

Whether or not men are sharing more responsibility in married households (and I believe they are), women still make the majority of decisions. Even if the husband goes out to do the shopping, and the woman is a high-level execustive, what is more important is understanding who makes the list and is primarily responsible for what is purchased. I don’t see that the female has “given up” her role as primary ruler of the household; not by a long shot.

In my opinion (and you may hear differently from many men, at least when you talk to them without their wives in the room) it is still to a very large extent the women controlling what’s in the shopping cart. Men may claim they have control, or even share it, but I strongly believe that is not the case. They are doing the chores, but not controlling the majority of buying decisions.

Sit a man next to his wife and ask him the same question and I am absolutely sure you will hear a different answer. Guys have an inherent desire to be recognized for their contributions and like to talk it up when they are with groups of men. It’s the way they’re built. But that doesn’t mean the basic purchasing dynamic has really changed. It only means that the male personality and ego has become interjected.

In the larger scheme of things, I think mansumerism is a myth. When alone, men cannot help but take more credit for decisions than they deserve—so let’s not get too crazy. Marketing and myths don’t mix very well.

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6 Responses to: The Rise of the Mansumer is a...

  1. Josh says:

    In my house the decision making has always been shared with more influence taken/given on various products. It is how I grew up and what I saw from my grandparents so to me it is natural.

    Many of my male friends have expressed similar experiences so I don’t think it is anything new but I have never believed the numbers. Maybe I am biased by my own experiences, but…

    Also I think we have to look at what items we are talking about. Big ticket purchases are not the same as deciding what brand of pasta or toilet paper to buy so I think without more data and specifics it is hard to really say what is going on.

  2. Hey Ted – this one’s right up my alley! Purchasing decisions are split in my household along gender lines. My wife (Jen) is a SAHM, though, which is becoming more rare. She’s the one that makes the grocery list and makes all of the purchasing decisions for any and all household items. I, on the other hand, am responsible for any outdoor purchases (lawn, garden, tools, etc) along with anything that can be plugged in.

    I think brands can (and have) made the mistake of alienating a gender in their advertising but I wouldn’t expect brands (especially of household goods) to start targeting me. Case in point: Huggies’ campaign that depicted dads as bumbling morons. That was a no-win campaign for them if you ask me. Not only should they not have been calling out one sex or the other, they did so in a derogatory, “funny” way.

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