A kinder, gentler Brawny Man.

A kinder, gentler Brawny Man.

A kinder, gentler Brawny Man.

Advertising deconstructed.
March 22 2004 3:58 PM

A Kinder, Gentler Brawny Man

The paper towel icon gets a makeover.

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Is it silly to think that women would buy paper towels based on a fantasy romance with the cartoon hunk on the packaging? Brawny doesn't think so. They've spent frightening amounts of time and money designing the new Brawny Man. They went through untold iterations, seeking to strike the perfect balance between "too real" and "not believable." A photo of a real-life hunky fireman was rejected ("too real," says Biondi), and more cartoonish versions of the Brawny Man also got dumped. "It's like romance novels. Women want someone more fantasylike, who they can mold in their own image." And when you think about it, it's no different than selling beer with hot, slutty women.

Is the Brawny Man makeover a winner? Perhaps I'm not the ideal judge—about 80 percent of paper towels are bought by women ages 25 to 54, and that's not me. But I'll give it a whirl, anyway. My assessment: A change was imperative, as the old Brawny Man had become laughably outdated. At first glance, the new guy seems sort of generic and lacks the old guy's kitschy appeal. But that's the point. Now that Brawny is innocuously modern, you can fantasize that he's all you want in a man—more sensitive, more emotional, more absorbent—and his haircut won't break the spell.


Grade: B-. The makeover was a long time coming. The ads are just so-so.