Media Bites Manliness Marketing

October 20, 2011

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.”

Make up maketh the woman

October 7, 2011

A new study published in PLoS ONE and conducted by Procter & Gamble finds that wearing makeup may alter the way women are perceived by others, especially during first impressions. The purpose of the study was to go beyond how others perceive attractiveness, and to understand how cosmetics can impact the way others perceive competence and trustworthiness.

Two groups of participants were shown 100 photos of 25 different women (of all ages and backgrounds) either wearing no makeup or one of three separate cosmetic looks – natural, professional or glamorous, ABC News reports.

The first group of participants, 149 adults, viewed the images for 250 milliseconds. In the second study, 119 participants looked at the same photos for an unlimited amount of time.

When viewed for 250 milliseconds, all three makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, trust, and likability in comparison to the ratings of the same faces without makeup.

When the looks were examined for an unlimited amount of time, the natural and professional makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability, and trust. The glamorous look was judged to be significantly more attractive and competent, equally likable, but less trustworthy than the faces not wearing makeup.

According to the study’s news release, the research reveals that, “makeup impacts both automatic, instinctual responses and conscious, deliberative judgments, causing people to make impressions based on the visual alterations caused by cosmetics and their conscious ideas about makeup users and looks.”


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