By Cindy Merrick
While you were busy wringing your hands over our nation’s debt crisis this summer, Combos (the Mars, Inc. brand responsible for figuring out how to shape pretzels around a glob of process cheese) was putting finishing touches on a far more sweeping indicator of our nation’s depravity: its annual “manliness survey.”
For the third year in a row, Combos has delivered its annual manliness rankings of America’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas. Rather than keeping this gold mine of market research to themselves, Combos has gifted it to us all, along with the opaque explanation: “The Combos brand understands that Americans take great pride in their hometowns. This spurred the idea for the first formal study on the manliest cities in America.” Actually, it’s probably good to be circumspect here. Once you’re caught saying “manliness is good,” you’re only one low-brow step away from “girliness isn’t good,” and by then you’re thinking what I’m thinking: what about Rollergirls?
In the survey, weighed along with other manly characteristics like a city’s proximity to NASCAR racetracks and rodeos, and its number of western/cowboy apparel stores, were “salty snacks sales” (say that with a mouth full of cheesy pretzels). So since salty snacks are naturally manly, Combos is reporting to us where they feel the love. It is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which ranked number one in the salty snacks sales category.
And in case you think that vapid, gender-confused marketing disguised as a survey like this would be ignored by serious media outlets, The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch picked up PR Newswire’s coverage of the “story,” good-naturedly encouraging Nashville (the #1 rated city overall in manliness) to “flex those muscles!” Other cities commented, lamented, and navel-gazed, on their own rankings.
The echo of this ploy resonates across the digisphere, but it’s the oldest ploy in the book. All the cool people are eating Combos in their manly cities at rodeos, wearing cowboy hats! How unmanly are you, sitting there in your sushi place, on break from the job for which the wearing of flannel implies non-advancement?
So go ahead and be offended on behalf of your gender, or take this way too seriously and say: shame on the media for unabashedly covering this corporate advertising “story.”