Rethinking Breadwinners, Alpha Males and Everything in Between
Countless studies and think pieces have been devoted to the millennial woman and how forward-thinking brands like Dove to Aerie are cutting through fake advertising with their “real girl” approach. But what about millennial men? Based on TV shows like Running Wild with Bear Grylls and a slew of Dos Equis commercials, you’d think he’s a total alpha male, ambivalent about fashion and prefers his women to be fawning and not strong and financially established. Unfortunately, marketers have been holding on to old stereotypes like these for so long they’ve failed to notice that today’s young millennial man is nothing like his predecessor. Sensitive, motivated and ready to let his girl take the lead, today’s guy requires a more thoughtful branded approach that offers a nod to a rapidly shifting social and cultural mindset.
Myth #1: Guys Don’t Care About Their Appearance on Social Media
Getting that perfect selfie for Snapchat or Instagram isn’t a girls-only struggle.
In fact, guys care as much as girls do about what they post, according to a recent study from the MTV Insights, Youth Culture and Trends team that focused on 14- to 24-year-olds.
Now that rappers are showing more of their lives on social media, from fatherhood to fashion, there’s an aspiring Kanye in every “fashMANista” out there. From #Flannel Fridays to #Fratagonia, millennial men are showing off their lifestyles faster than you can say Drake’s grandpa sweater. As one 23-year-old man in the study noted, “I get labeled as an athlete, but f*ck, I like fashion and keep up with America’s Next Top Model.”
Myth #2: He’s Not Into Happily-Ever-After
Forget Entourage. The male macho dynamic has also broken down when it comes to marriage, allowing his sensitive side to show through. And while TV programs can exaggerate this behavior to an extreme (a la BET’s The Real Husbands of Hollywood), it’s not stopping him from making pin boards of his dream wedding. With
of millennial men stating they want to get married someday (and 13 percent are already married), #familygoals is more than just a hashtag. In fact, new media like “Brooklyn dad” magazine Kindling Quarterly and modern ads featuring involved fathers from brands like Cheerios are popping up to fill this need.
Myth #3: They’re Unambitious Beta Males
The poor creative hipster trope does not apply anymore. He’s a hustler, baby; he just wants you to know. As a 21-year-old New Yorker admits, “My biggest fear is that I’ll get the coolest job ever, but be living in a one-bedroom, eating cereal. I want money too.” And he’s in the majority:
of guys think it’s important to make a lot of money, according to the MTV study. Many are profiting from the gig economy by utilizing their skills to freelance full-time while using Facebook both as a storefront and marketing channel. Entrepreneurs-in-training are inspired by shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley, which parodies the male egos of the start-up world without delving into brogrammer or Marc Zuckerberg stereotypes. Why this emphasis on dollar bills? Most guys came of age in the recession and 58 percent feel they’re at a disadvantage because of college debt, according to the MTV research. (Hello Bernie bros!).
Myth #4: Being the Breadwinner is a Given
Today’s mini moguls are rejecting the 1950s Mad Men approach to marriage where the wife stays home with the kids. As an Atlanta college student explained to MTV Insights, “Ambition is attractive in a female.” With sexy feminists like Empire’s Cookie filling up their TV screen (and the leading ladies of HBO’s Girls forging their own
career paths), millennial men don’t mind women bringing home the artisanal bacon.
of the men interviewed by MTV Insights are comfortable with their significant other making more money than they do. In the words of one 24-year-old from New Jersey, “Women are taking over the world and I’m OK with it.” But these guys are no house-husbands either. The alpha/beta dynamic is totally gone—we’re now talking alpha squared. Millennial men are looking to build their own next-level Jay-Z/Beyoncé dynasty.
The Millennial Man Rebrand
He may be sensitive, but he’s not stupid. Just like a product that’s no longer relevant in the marketplace, a one-size-fits-all mindset isn’t going to score points with this generation of men. Brands that are able to really understand who guys are today and what they stand for are the ones currently making important connections that count.
Capture their attention and you might capture their wallet. Capture their likes, dreams and desires, and you’ll have a customer for life.
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Illustrations by David Heatley.