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AdStand: Engaging with the Alpha Male

This is the second instalment of the exclusive weekly column on advertising trends that Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Bang in the Middle, is writing for Best Media Info

Delhi | May 26, 2015

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

Women are the prime target for marketers. From shampoos to fashion, food to cosmetics, they hold the key to a brand’s success. Youth is the other most important target, from beverages to cellphones; from bikes to online shopping, they are the creators of trends. Brands have mastered the art of creating nuanced appeals for the two.

What about the alpha males? They sure are a prime audience for a variety of categories. Cars, bikes, banks, insurance and, of late, fairness creams target them. To understand what the advertisers are saying to the males, I went through a series of ads targeting them.

Let’s start with undergarment brands. Akshay Kumar, Hritik Roshan, Sunny Deol – all iconic alpha males – are peddling undergarments. It has to be an important category.

There is one undergarment brand, Rupa, which used to be endorsed by an ex-Miss Universe at some time. Now it is endorsed by the red hot Ranvir Singh. Today Ranvir is one really successful alpha male with his own brand of swagger and street mannerism. Ranvir is ensuring that we forget the feminity of the brand name and consider the brand as one made for males. He works hard to lend extra charm, swagger and a dash of Ravir style humour. It’s not often that a whale will take a punch on the nose and swim away, all because the ‘Hero’ has to rescue the damsel in distress. David Hasselhoff would have quit ‘Baywatch’ after watching this ad!

The critical question is how do you reconcile to wearing an innerwear brand that is named after a beautiful girl even after it is endorsed by Ranvir?

After you have sorted out your innerwear, you get ready to move out of home, take your big bike out, slip on the helmet and go vroom. The girls will look back at you if you are the handsome John Abraham. Handsome hulk though has an issue with his skin colour. It takes double action, with some charcoal and clay and a dual coloured face wash to fix the problem and make him ‘fair’! Whatever happened to tall, dark and handsome? After building the excitement by being the big macho man, everything comes crashing down when you realize that you have to be fair to get ahead. Next time you take your bike out, grab a whitening face wash first – the big bike and the good looks won’t take you far.

Consider giving up on bike and consider looking at big, muscular SUV. There is nothing that spells machismo like a car with muscle. There is Sushant Singh Rajput doing a high-energy dance and the Nissan Terrano responds with matching moves. Nissan Terrano is a big macho SUV, which is being serenaded by an alpha male. After the car and Sushant match steps, an attractive female comes and drives away the car, leaving our guy looking a bit sheepish. So, was the car an attractive female who Sushant was serenading? Or was the car a macho male who the attractive girl drives away with? Here the big guy gets neither the car, nor the girl!

There are beverage brands that celebrate being a man in their unique style. One such brand is Carlsberg, which possibly makes the world’s best bar glasses. We know the glasses are meant to hold beer. But, in its latest TV ad film, Carlsberg has a take on board meetings. Board meetings obviously are meant for people with power and influence. This is a rich fertile territory and the brand could have created a memorable male symbolism. The board meeting though turns out to be bit of an apology. To say that the world’s best board meeting is conducted inside a swimming pool wearing swimming trunks is possibly what an imagination deprived teenager will dream of! Does this kind of board meeting appeal to someone with power and influence? Carlsberg seemed to have served flat beverage this time.

It looks like being an alpha male in adland is a tough thing. It’s time we engage the males in a far more intelligent manner, otherwise #feelslikeaman will mean #feelslikealoser.

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