Axe and Bud Light Win When It Comes to Marketing to Millennial Men

Posted by: Angie Read

Along with the start of football season comes the onslaught of primetime ads targeting men. Many of these ads are centered on masculinity, power and slapstick humor – the tried and trued method of delivery for marketers everywhere. Which means it has to be effective, right?

Maybe 10 years ago.

Stereotypes don’t define millennial men, ads shouldn’t either

According to Nielsen, millennial men became the largest adult male segment of television watchers in 2014, and these men don’t prescribe to the “traditional male” stereotypes that have been prevalent within our society for many years. They focus less on the need to embody manliness, to be the breadwinner in relationships and to be above weakness. Instead, they focus more on how they can be confident in their uniqueness, how they can better provide for their family and friends and how they can admit to and utilize emotion. In fact, research by digital agency Unruly recently found that millennial men are the most emotional demographic when it comes to video advertisements, over-indexing on emotions including happiness, pride, inspiration and exhilaration.

Yes, you read that right. Millennial men embrace their emotions, and they pay greater attention to content that recognizes that.

Additionally, millennial men don’t appreciate the unfair depictions that portray otherwise in the advertising space (we’ve all seen our fair share of commercials about uninterested dads and womanizing bros), and aren’t incentivized to buy the products associated with them. Instead, they seek out brands that understand who they really are and respect them. When they get this from a brand, they are inclined to return the favor.

Two brands currently performing well in this regard are Axe and Bud Light.

Axe champions individuality and inclusivity

Axe’s “Find Your Magic” campaign debuted at the 2016 Super Bowl and immediately garnered positive attention. Instead of following in the footsteps of the brand’s previous advertising, footsteps that promoted comical (and rather sexist) dudes, the campaign went off the beaten path to engage the ideas of individuality and inclusivity through the embracing of all the individual characteristics men today might exhibit. From a man competing in a dance-off in heels, to a man cuddling with kittens, to a man opening the car door for his date, the ad promotes the fact that guys can be themselves, however they are, and still be real men.

The campaign follows the pledge by Axe’s parent company, Unilever, to drop all sexist stereotypes from its advertising content. Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, told The Guardian, “The time is right for us as an industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising. Our industry spends billions of dollars annually shaping perceptions and we have a responsibility to use this power in a positive manner.”

Bud Light embraces all genders and all love

Although formerly targeted for its missteps pertaining to sexism and stereotypes, Bud Light proved that it cares about listening and actively responding to its audience with its newest “The Bud Light Party” campaign. Featuring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen, the ads use lighthearted (note: not slapstick) humor to address opposition to the gender spectrum, the pay gap between men and women and discrimination against same-sex couples.

Each themed advertisement makes note that the Anheuser-Busch beer is for all people, regardless of societal pressures, and casts Rogen’s character as an advocate for those facing them. The “Label” commercial is perhaps most popular, with it’s line, “Beers should have labels. Not people.” Although the campaign doesn’t target men in the traditional fashion (by specifically identifying why and how they might benefit from it), it reaches them all the same by broadcasting that they don’t have to be defined by outdated epithets and that they do care about equality for all.

Supporting millennial men’s adaptability is key

No matter what a brand sells, if it hopes to reach millennial men it must recognize that stereotypes and macho traditions are a thing of the past. Millennial men now manifest a variety of traits and behaviors, and they don’t want to be pigeonholed by them. The millennial man of today and the future can adapt to whoever he wants to be, and brands should do what they can to support him in that journey.

About Angie Read

Angie Read is Vice President of Growth Insight at Barkley. She has 20+ years of consumer marketing and public relations experience for brands including Sprint, Hallmark, Huhtamaki, Dearfoams, Foot Petals and baggalini, as well as...See Angie's full bio.

hidden