The ideal Indian man according to brands

During the International Men's Day brands are redefining the Indian man. Do we need it?

Do you recall the scene from Gangs of Wasseypur when Ramadhir tells why he refrains from watching Bollywood movies? Watch the clip :)

Bollywood - the answer to all our problems

My parents had a very simple goal - their kids should go to an English medium school, get a good education and eventually find a decent job to live a happy life. This also meant that both my parents were working around the clock. The wish to give us a better life swallowed parenting. And I had no one to discuss my personal problems?

Is porn good? My teacher touches me inappropriately, can you speak to him? Can masturbation make me thin? Is smoking cool? What is sex? My girlfriend is dating someone who has a bike, what should I do?

I had endless questions but no one to answer them. Can I ask my dad but he hates me as I am not good at studies. I can’t ask my mother, I am a grown-up guy. You can’t ask your friends or you become a laughing stock. Eventually for all my problems, there was one messiah - Bollywood. 

Not just for me but for the entire country(almost) Bollywood had the answers.

Smoking makes you cool, girls love guys who are tall and good looking with big biceps, breakups are cool and alcohol will help you to overcome the pain, sex is okay but should not be discussed in open, and the list goes on.

Men also have numerous issues related to sex from size to how long can we perform. I thought only Indian men deal with such problems but I was wrong. Men from the developed nations have the same problem. Dr. Emily Nagoski openly talks with Shane Parrish about all these problems and how the porn industry is not the answer.

From a macho man, we suddenly have a sensitive and caring man. The man who saves a girl wearing VIP underwear is now okay to cry. All thanks to brands and their marketing spends, like all other topical days, International Men’s Day is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

Gillette’s #ManEnough

Gillette, the personal grooming brand from Procter & Gamble released a tear-jerking ad #ManEnough - a real-life story of Lt. Colonel Manoj Kumar Sinha who served the Indian Army for over 20 years till 2018 before he opted for voluntary premature retirement. 

Released on International Men’s Day, the brand is attempting to re-define masculinity. The essence of the story is that being strong doesn’t mean you can’t express pain and as a man there is nothing wrong if you cry.

Gillette under its CSR program ‘Safalta Apni Mutthi Mein’ (Success in your hands) also aims to educate young boys in colleges across the country about grooming to become a better version of themselves.

The real-life story is inspiring and as boys/men we are often told that if you cry or show your weakness then you are not man enough.

I have seen rejections in my life because I came across as a weak man. The scars are still there but I have accepted the way I am. So it felt good when I saw the ad and somewhere I connected with the story. 

But the moment was tarnished when I saw the razor. I understand the brand’s perspective to fit the product otherwise how will we have a brand recall. And there lies my problem,

Either you stand for a cause or just sell products. Don’t be smart to pitch a story and then slowly place your product. The consumer is not dumb.

For 30 years Gillette reinforced the high quality of its products communicating “The Best a Man Can Get”. In 2005 it was acquired by P&G, hereafter it witnessed fierce competition, the market share dropped from 70% to 50% and eventually it had to drop prices. 

Earlier this year Gillette transformed itself from “The Best a Man Can Be” to “We Believe in the Best in Men”. Launched at a time when the world was witnessing the #MeToo movement Gillette launched “We Believe in the Best in Men”. Making reference to bullying, sexual harassment and toxic masculinity, and asked men to stop making excuses. Because the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow.

Initially, the ad got the positive mileage but the negative backlash, especially from men, did hit the brand online and on sales(allegedly). The attempt was good but the communication fell flat and the reference to “toxic masculinity” was needless.

With #ManEnough the brand has stayed away from such problems. It is no more advising the consumer or generalising men. Good for its business which is performing at an all-time high in India.

“The company had said both grooming and oral care businesses recorded double-digit growth ahead of their categories. This growth was driven by superior communication, category expansion and go-to-market initiatives.”

The Man Company decodes the gentleman

Ayushmann Khurrana is the man that our society always needed. He is acting in movies that no actor from Bollywood would dare to touch. In Shubh Mangal Savdhan he has erectile dysfunction, in Bala he is bald and in Dream Girl he transforms into a girl and entertains men over the phone. In doing so he is bringing stories to the screen that the society avoids having a conversation.

Perfect for The Man Company to leverage the actor and deliver its new communication that tries to bust stereotypes (Ayushmann is the brand ambassador and investor in The Man Company.)

A week prior to International Men’s Day when the actor was basking in the glory of its latest Bollywood hit Bala, the brand released a beautiful poem recited by the actor that lists and calls out a host of gender stereotypes.

Screenwriter and lyricist Gaurav Solanki wrote the poem. The latest campaign is an extension of last year’s campaign “For The Gentleman In You.” Definitely the men’s grooming brand and essentials brand has taken its last year’s campaign to higher grounds.

It is a social message and the brand has treated it with honesty without transforming it into an ad. The brand name is out there but the story is the hero. Thankfully you don’t see the brand trying to do product placement in the video. This is why it never feels like an ad even though you are aware that it is.

Brands like Indian Terrain, AMFI(Mutual Funds Sahi Hai) have associated themselves to the day but there is nothing worthwhile to share. The rest have created creatives just to be part of the conversation. 

Indian men’s love for grooming and the growing market

The Indian male grooming industry is worth Rs. 5000 crore and set to grow at an annual growth rate of about 45%. According to The Man Company, “Men's' shaving category is growing at Rs 8.5 billion, toiletries including bath, shower, skin and hair care products at Rs 15.7 billion and fragrances at Rs. 15.5 billion.”

Speaking to E4M Hitesh Dhingra, Founder & MD revealed:

“Men's' shaving category is growing at Rs 8.5 billion, toiletries including bath, shower, skin and hair care products at Rs 15.7 billion and fragrances at Rs. 15.5 billion.”

From startups to MNCs everyone is trying to grab a bigger pie from the Indian male grooming market.

The market is growing because the Indian male is taking grooming seriously. A recent report by market research agency, Mintel, said that the average Indian man spends 42 minutes a day on grooming himself. “An average man spends 16 minutes on grooming his body, 14 minutes on his hair and 12 minutes on his face.” The research further shared that almost two-thirds of Indian men are concerned about an aspect of their appearance. A quarter of the Indian men, as per the report, admit that body odor and hair greying are their biggest concerns.

The changing perception towards grooming is good for the society and the brands. However, most of us don’t understand the difference between looking smart and trying to look fair. In reality, the male fairness cream market developed in India because men became the biggest consumer for women’s fairness cream. 

Can the grooming startups and brands make an effort in changing this mindset - that being fair doesn’t make you good looking and confident. Not just in metros but in T2 and T3 cities.

When Gillette approaches young boys in colleges, can it facilitate conversations around their personal problems? An uphill task but if you really want to define the modern man and want him to be your consumer then you will have to deal with bigger problems that eventually lead to grooming.

Not just Gillette, all other startups and brands can they be bold enough to make this happen. Can The Man Company go beyond creating the ad and solve problems of men so that they be a better person?

Till then don’t define us, let us be just human.