How to "Clean Like a Man" ...
There’s no question that far too many commercials still portray house cleaning as a woman’s job, but according to this New York Times story, the products themselves are getting a gender-neutral makeover.
The story focuses on the tidy lifestyle of one Tom McNulty, who has written a book filled with basic housekeeping advice for his peers: Clean Like a Man: Housekeeping for Men (and the Women Who Love Them). Take a look at the macho cover -- this work ain't for wimps!
Writer William L. Hamilton clearly admires his subject and doesn’t stray far from comfortable stereotypes about men and their domestic prowess. It does, however, include this assessment of how men’s increased involvement is influencing marketing:
"Today, more and more men are participating in home care," said Carol Berning, a consumer psychologist working with product development at Procter & Gamble. "It's generational. As we talk with younger families and empty nesters, we speak with more and more men."
Ms. Berning explained that the trend has resulted in the greater development of products that side-step any want of expertise or patience, like premeasured dishwasher soap, dry mops and single-use dusters. Product design and packaging are also increasingly gender-neutral, and men are appearing more frequently in advertising, like Procter & Gamble's current television campaign for Febreze, a fabric refresher. Fresh scents now outsell florals, mops are longer and handles are larger to accommodate men's height and hands, and pink is not an option.
"We avoid making the products feminine," Ms. Berning said, acknowledging the company's observation that while men might not represent a new, stand-alone market, the broom is being passed.
Brian Sansoni, vice president for communication with the Soap and Detergent Association, a trade group in Washington, said that the association's annual surveys recognize that women continue to do a majority of the cleaning in homes. But the popularity of idiotproof products indicates that an increasing segment of men are helping, or cleaning for themselves.
"The floor wipes, the detergent tablets — frat guys can do this," Mr. Sansoni said. "There's been an explosion among these types of products."
No doubt because they help busy women, too. I also came across this interesting article: “The Portrayal of Men's Family Roles in Television Commercials.” Published in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research in 1999, the research feels a little dated in places, but it’s still a good read.