Due to popular TV shows, product lines, and US males' growing quest for knowledge on the subject, men's grooming is becoming a prominently covered media topic.
Vanity has never been something American men are eager to admit to, but increasingly they're turning to everything from skin toners to teeth whiteners in an effort to look their best.
After a slow build that took place primarily under the media's radar screen, men's grooming has suddenly emerged as a hot lifestyle topic. Not only is there the popular TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but papers ranging from The New York Times to the Detroit Free Press are now doing features on the subject, as well as male makeover profiles.
"The media is clearly responding to the explosion in the men's grooming category, so you're seeing coverage of everything from facial scrubs to hair color," says Allison Costello, account supervisor with Ketchum-Pittsburgh, which represents Combe Inc.'s Just For Men hair color line, as well as Maxim magazine's hair-care products.
Moving to the forefront
"There's always been this great interest, but in the past the media didn't know how to approach it," notes Dawn Maniglia, president of DM Public Relations, which represents Remington shaving and grooming products. "The GQs, Esquires, and Details of the world had men's grooming, but primarily as an adjunct to fashion coverage. Now Maxim, Stuff, and FHM have brought the issue of grooming to the forefront, as well as broadened the demographic."
Jason Schlossberg, VP at Euro RSCG Middleberg, adds the grooming trend has picked up even more traction recently as the media suddenly discovered "metrosexuals," a marketing category describing primarily urban men who have the grooming and style habits traditionally associated with women.
"The concept itself has gotten incredible mainstream pickup," he says. "In the last three months alone, the term itself has been used everywhere from The New York Times to Time magazine to 20/20 and Inside Edition."
Given how quickly men's grooming has risen as a media topic, there might be a concern that it could just as easily cool off next year. But Vicky McGarry, Men's Journal fashion director, dismisses any notion that the men's grooming fad may be short-lived, suggesting it is part of a much longer and much broader phenomenon of Americans wanting to be as healthy and attractive as possible. "I think men, especially, have this quest for knowledge," she says. "Even if it's not for them, they want to know about it."
Compared to magazines and TV, newspapers can present more of a challenge, Maniglia says, adding, "Really the only place you can go is either the features editor or maybe the special projects editor. Most of the health and beauty pages are really becoming more medically oriented. Grooming is not really considered a health issue."
Surprisingly, however, men's grooming is emerging as a growing topic for traditional women's outlets, or at least for their gift-giving guides. "I'm finding women's titles are broadening their holiday gift coverage to include products for him or gifts under $50 for dad," says Maniglia.
Costello adds that the trend is extending to TV as well, noting that The View last year did a "Makeover Your Man" feature. "The makeover trend is absolutely exploding thanks to shows like Queer Eye," she says. "And during some of the discussions we've had with producers, they're telling us that they'd rather focus on the men because...they're kind of a new twist in makeovers."
Letting the products sell the story
As far as PR tools go, McGarry says the best advice she can give is to send product samples to as many editors and producers as possible. "It's much easier for me if I can actually see it, touch it, feel it, and try it than it is for me to simply read about it," she says.
Maniglia also suggests using surveys and statistics whenever possible, even if they're fairly lighthearted. Remington recently sponsored a men's body hair survey that asked women everything from which facial hair they find the sexiest to which celebrity they think needs the most grooming. The company used the results for a radio media tour that, in a few short weeks, generated 17 hits in major markets. "That kind of pitch works well with editors and producers because these statistics are something they can use as the jumping-off point for their story or feature," she says.