Marketing: The Male Factor

By Christopher Zoukis

Affluent men are status conscious. So are affluent women. According to American Demographics, men and women perceive status and status enhancement in different ways. Men compete with other men for status. It is a competition based on pure comparison. The comparison takes place at every level. Cars, houses, watches, clothes, yachts, cigars and yes, athletics. When an affluent male sees another affluent male, who appears to have more status, the game is on. It is not about the game, it is about winning the game. Which explains why Larry Ellison ordered a new yacht to replace his old one. While cruising the Mediterranean, Ellison pulled into Monaco for the night. To his dismay, his yacht was the second longest in the harbor. The longest yacht belonged to Paul Allen, who founded Micro-Soft along with Bill Gates. Larry Ellison had to have the biggest yacht in the harbor. And his yacht had to have the finest and most luxurious appointments. So Larry Ellison immediately ordered a new yacht to be custom-built for him. It would be fifty feet longer than Paul Allen’s yacht.  Image courtesy itbusinessimage.com

For affluent men, status is a “gut” reaction and involves what they perceive as a “winning image.” This winning image is established by marketing in popular media outlets: magazines, the internet, television. Affluent men see what other affluent men are buying, so they buy too. In other words, they buy what they see everyday, because what they see everyday is what they come to desire. To validate themselves and their status, affluent men want what their peers have and, if possible, something a little bit better.

Understanding how to appeal to the psychology of affluent male customers is vital to the success of any business or individual catering to them. This, in turn, necessitates asking a lot of questions, because male customers prefer to get right to the point. They know what they want – improved status. Often, though, they are not sure how to attain it. This is where branding enters the picture. Affluent men, because of their competitive drive for the winning image, are susceptible to the influence of branding.

They eat Wheaties for breakfast because Tom Brady does. They wear a Rolex watch because Donald Trump does. Steve Jobs drinks diet Pepsi, so they do too. Brady, Trump and Jobs have winning images. Other affluent men want that same winning image. They wish for it and dream of it. They will buy it because it is for sale. Marketing creates their desired reality by means of branding, and brand association.  Winners are associated with winning brands.

Branding implies that buying the brand will provide the winning image. The need for the winning image is psychological. Basically, there are two ways to appeal to the need: through the eyes, and through the ears. This means the appeal is made by marketing, and advertising.

Affluent male customers need to feel important and worthwhile. This feeling is physiological as well as psychological. It is the need for self-esteem. They develop and maintain this winning image feeling by comparing themselves and what they have done to the accomplishments of other affluent males. If other affluent men use a certain brand of shaving cream, then that brand has a winning image. By using the same brand, the winning image of the brand is extended to the user and he too has attained the winning imgage. In effect, the brand becomes an identity. 

Branding, then, creates and transmits identity to those who use it. Affluent males relate and buy brands that align with their self-image. Self-images are informed by popular media. Thus, affluent men gain self-esteem – the winning image – by emulating the appearance, and behavior of other affluent men who they admire. They use the same brands as winners.

What is important here is this: affluent male customers not only want a winning image, they also want to be unique. Competition and comparison with other affluent men motivates such men to surpass their peers. They want to excel, not be equal. This means that the successful seller of luxury products or services must provide a brand both superior to and scarcer than, the others.

This means innovative marketing, because, generally speaking, the affluent customer is overwhelmed by advertising. So much so that he becomes immune to it. Branding helps the affluent male customer to traverse the maze of marketing advertisements. They select the brand that suits their financial status and their desired winning image. The image conveyed by the brand is of primary importance. Price is secondary.

It should be remembered that the preferences of affluent men constantly change, which makes the luxury brands they desire come and go. This means luxury brands must keep their products and services unique. Which means the seller of such luxuries cannot sit still. They have to innovate, yet maintain prestige.

For example, Burberry, the famous maker of trench coats. Burberry is a brand that conveys status and success. Burberry has had a winning image since being founded in 1856. To maintain that winning image, Burberry realized that it needed to accommodate younger buyers too, or slowly become outdated. What did Burberry do? According to Folio 4, they didn’t scrap their famous trench coat. Indeed, they kept it. But they also added a new line of stylish coats and accessories for a fresh generation of buyers, which includes celebrities like Kate Moss, Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman.

In her book, Brand New, author Nancy Koehn relates how David Birnbaum found a new niche in selling luxury jewelry. For one, Birnbaum’s store looks almost low-rent compared to such stores as Tiffany’s or Harry Winston’s.  Birnbaum opted for low-overhead, and discovered that Manhattan’s affluent customers approved. The average sale in Birnbaum’s store is between $50,000 and $150,000. Birnbaum believes his success stems from the fact that he listens to the market. “Throwing money around does not create a luxury brand, it just creates a lot of noise,” says Birnbaum. The secret is having a great product. A good product will not make it.

Birnbaum believes his product and services are so unique that he relies solely upon word-of-mouth referrals. In other words, he is playing the psychological card. Koehn sums up the importance of appealing to the psychology of the buyer, when she writes, “Great brands are all about psychology, not only mass advertising or a neat logo.”