Meet Men's New Role Models

Does Survey Data Mean We'll See Steve Jobs on a Beer Bottle or Wheaties Box?

By Published on .

Tom Brady? Meet Steve Jobs.

When AskMen surveyed over 2,000 of men, a whopping 35% said they consider entrepreneurs to be their role models. Surprisingly only 24% looked to athletes and a meager 8% accepted the figures held up by the media -- actors and entertainers -- as those to emulate.

It's not hard to see why. Take athletes. For many men, these are yesterday's heroes. Sure they're talented and wealthy, but their success comes from rising through an established system and what they do is , ultimately, more entertaining than world changing. Today's men want to succeed in their careers and they don't see that happening in any traditional way. They understand that , perhaps now more than ever, success requires that entrepreneurial combination of vision and invention. There is no career ladder to the position of a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg.

In other words, men's ambitions have grown. Remember that line in "The Social Network"? "A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars." According to the 2010 survey of millennials by Euro RSCG, men are six times as likely as women (12% vs. 2%) to choose "money" as the thing that best describes happiness. But these outsized ambitions have as much to do with freedom as with wealth. When answering the same question -- "What best describes happiness to you?" -- 22 % of men vs. 13% of women chose "freedom" as the No. 1 factor. Perhaps what men find most attractive about entrepreneurship is exactly that : the freedom to be the master of your own destiny.

Not only do they look to entrepreneurs as role models, but, increasingly, they're starting their own companies, often while still in school. A recent study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute found that , compared with other generations, millennials were 120% more likely start businesses without previous workplace experience. For men the entrepreneurial impulse is particularly keen. The 2010 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity found that men's eagerness to start companies has been trending upward since 2001 and that "overall, men are substantially more likely to start businesses" than women. Since nothing spurs self-employment like unemployment, the recession no doubt deserves some credit for the entrepreneurial surge, but whether they're accidental entrepreneurs or intentional ones, they're going for it.

Ricardo Poupada
Ricardo Poupada

And regardless of the down economy, millennials are as optimistic as they are ambitious, something which goes for both genders. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that even among unemployed millennials, an overwhelming 89% believe they'll have enough money in the future. This optimism allows them to take risks. While many would say that lean times require hunkering down or settling, today's young men couldn't disagree more. Instead they are going all out and swinging for the fences. It may sound like a foolish approach, but consider Steve Jobs' parting words to Stanford's class of 2005: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." Insofar as it means chasing a big dream any way you can, foolish is OK.

To effectively market to men, marketers need to understand both their aspirations and what inspires them. Today's men admire those, like Jobs, who break the mold; who see the risks and take them anyway, achieving success on their own individual terms. And this admiration leads to strong brand identification that companies such as Apple have seized upon in their advertising. The message is clear: "I'm young. I'm creative." In other words: "I'm a Mac." It seems to be working. According to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown, in 2011 Apple leapfrogged Google to become the world's most valuable brand.

Of course, people are willing to pay more for Apple products both because they identify with the brand and because of the high quality of the product. Confident of their eventual success, men are eager to invest in quality from the start, and smart brands have adapted to these shifting tastes. A good example is Samsonite, which went from marketing itself simply as durable luggage in the '70s to targeting today's big-dreaming male consumer by offering both ruggedness and refinement, with stylish products fit for the man he wants to be.

It all comes back to freedom -- freedom to be what you want and buy what you want. And in anticipation of that freedom, men are exercising their purchasing power in an increasingly aspirational way. They are becoming more quality-conscious and aiming for the best in every area of life.

Marketers would do well to take notice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ricardo Poupada is general manager and co-founder of AskMen, the world's largest lifestyle website for men. For more insights into manhood, visit AskMen's new data-driven site at greatmalesurvey.com.
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