About these Authors
Johnnie Moore is a marketing consultant and facilitator based in London. As well as 20 years of marketing experience he's trained in psychotherapy, NLP and Improv. Find out more at his blog.
Andrew Lark's more than 18 years experience of all facets of marketing, branding, sales and communications spans technology, Internet, telecommunications and consumer sectors. There he has led award-winning programs and teams for brands such as Dell, Sony, SBC, IDSoftware, Nortel, Microsoft and Sun. He is a thought leader and innovator on the convergence of brands, communications and social networking technologies. Find out more at his blog.
Jennifer Rice is a strategist and evangelist for relationship-centric brands. She brings 15 years experience in brand strategy, customer insight and marketing communications, and has worked with companies such as Microsoft, Verizon, Alcatel and Corning. Her current passion is exploring how brands are being impacted by blogs and other social technologies. Her company blog is What's Your Brand Mantra?
John Winsor is the author of Beyond the Brand: Why Listening to the Right Customers is Essential to Winning in Business and the Founder/CEO of Radar Communications, a consumer-centric consultancy. You can find out more about him at Beyond the Brand.
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October 11, 2005
Jennifer Rice has a nice post about buzzwords on her blog. The post made me think about marketing buzzwords that get under my skin me. One of them is ‘metrosexuals.’ Here's what I wrote in Beyond the Brand:
It’s human nature to use words as a way to classify other people’s actions or behaviors. Whether its right or wrong, we all categorize people at times. Companies, and especially their marketing departments, do the same thing. A recent popular example of how words can be appropriated is the term ‘metrosexual.’ Marketers now use this term to describe sensitive, image-conscious guys.
“Their heightened sense of aesthetics is very, very pronounced,” Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG(now at JWT), said of ‘metrosexuals.’ “They are the style makers. It doesn’t mean your average Joe American is going to copy everything they do,” she added. “But unless you study these guys you don’t know where Joe American is heading.”
It is somewhat ironic that gay writer Mark Simpson originally coined the term ‘metrosexual’ to mock everything marketers stood for. In the mid-1990’s, Simpson used the word to satirize the way that brands and consumer culture promoted the idea of a sensitive guy: one who shopped, used products for his personal appearance, and read magazines like Men’s Health.
Simpson felt that consumerism had taken its toll on traditional masculinity. From his point of view, men really didn’t go to shopping malls, use personal-care products or read self-help magazines. It was all a fantasy propagated by marketers.
A couple of days ago Salzman told the New York Tmes that her promotion of 'metrosexuals' was all a ruse to sell books:
While identifying a tribe of ‘metrosexuals’ ostensibly helped marketers reach that market, Ms. Salzman said her purpose was to sell her book. When the three authors' previous book, "Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand," was published in spring 2003, "we wanted to prove our own hypothesis, that you could buzz something around the world without paying for advertising."
Salzman and co-authors Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly have written a new book, "The Future of Men," they say the new ideal is the "übersexual."
The authors state that unlike metrosexuals, "übersexuals don't invite questions about their sexuality." They also produced a list of the "top 10 übersexuals," including Bono, George Clooney and Bill Clinton.
Ahhhh....I'm so confused! Who am I supposed to be? A metrosexual or an ubersexual? How about if I'm just me?
Companies should be hesitant to ascribe general classifications to their customers. While many times a label does a fair job of describing its target population, individual characteristics are completely subject to interpretation. Relying on a simplistic descriptive tool to give life to someone as important as a customer, or potential customer, is dangerous.
If you really want to know your customers; stop using labels and get out of your office and spend time in the context of their lives. Once you start understanding your customers as people, you can avoid the need to develop or depend on such generalized labels that seem to change in the whims of fashion.
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