Marketers Blow Smoke Trying To Convince Stores That Male Shoppers Need Special Treatment

What Women Really Think
Dec. 28 2011 11:51 AM

Men Buy Groceries Like This, Women Buy Groceries Like That

Man shopping.
Do men shop differently than women?

AFP/Getty Images.

Is there any facet of life that can't be filtered through the bizarre belief that men and women are fundamentally opposites in every way? Turns out that the answer is no, at least if you're a marketing executive. The Chicago Tribune demonstrated this with a piece about the supposed phenomenon of men shopping in grocery stores, a remarkable feat made even more remarkable by the lack of testicle shrinkage that has resulted from this upswing in men putting groceries in carts and taking out credit cards to pay for them. In a common sense world, this research showing men are doing more grocery shopping would suggest that men and women, far from being inherently opposed to each other in every way, are actually mostly alike, so much so that a task like grocery shopping that has been traditionally assigned to women can be adopted by men without any major stress along the way. In the marketing world, however, the belief that men are just so much more fun and awesome than women cannot be relinquished, no matter what kind of evidence argues against it.

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Thus, embarrassing quotes such as this:

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"The mindset has been that she shops, she really knows every inch of the store, she is really organized, has a list, is in a huge hurry," Calpino said. "We talk to a lot of these millennial guys about shopping, and the biggest headline is they're not as structured, not as hurried, much more experimental, more adventurous."

Men are more laid-back than those uptight women, you know. Women, always rushing around and being a bummer with their lists and the goals. Men can't be constrained by the tedium of conformist, goal-driven shopping, unlike those boring women. Men have to live, live I tell you. They can't go through their shopping experience like those uncreative, unexperimental women.

Interestingly, right after that quote, you get this one, from a different marketing executive: 

"Though men are very mission-driven, very grab-and-go, get-it-done, it's not at the expense of paying a price premium," he said. "They are very driven by finding best prices before making purchases, and they're not going to jettison quality either."

So, when women do it, the descriptors are "organized," "has a list," and "in a huge hurry." When men do it, they're "mission-driven," "get-it-done," and "driven by finding the best prices." Technically, it's exactly the same behavior, but somehow when men do it, it just sounds better. Sexier, really.

Needless to say, the first marketing executive's idea of how men are contradicts the second executive's. Men are laid-back, unhurried, and experimental, except when they're driven, swift with decision-making, and focused on getting the best deal. But the takeaway they want you to get is that men aren't like women. Not one little bit. Sure, women also can be hurried or not, experimental or rigid, driven or indecisive. Luckily, people are remarkably good at ignoring the fact that these traits are scattered willy-nilly across the genders with no real regard for our love of the strict gender binary. Certainly for marketers trying to convince stores that they need to completely overhaul their marketing strategies to appeal to male shoppers, the strict gender binary is a godsend. They probably wish there was a handful more genders they could claim are completely opposite of the ones before, just so that more specialized marketing campaigns can be justified.