How Brands are Shifting Advertising Efforts to Reflect a Shift in Male Stereotypes

Many brands such as AXE and Dove Men+Care are moving towards non-stereotypical portrayal of men in their advertising efforts. Source: Google Images

Brands are finally discovering that not all men are the same, and are moving towards advertising that no longer assumes the stereotype of men as burly, heterosexual, and sex-obsessed.

Despite general knowledge that all men are different, a study conducted by AXE and Promundo found that most men in the United States still feel pressured to follow traditional gender stereotypes, which often leads to unhappiness, according to a recent New York Times article. In fact, one in five young men in the study admitted to having considered suicide in the past two weeks. To combat this, Axe is moving towards an expanded view of masculinity with its advertisements, in which men challenge the long-standing “boys will be boys” ideology. The brand does this in its newest advertising campaign that was launched in May 2017. The campaign includes a video that addresses a type of question frequently posed by men in search engines: “Is it OK for guys…”? The video uses this question with various scenarios that fall outside of the stereotypical view of masculinity. “Is it Ok for guys…” to wear pink? To be skinny? To experiment with guys? To be nervous? This is far different from AXE’s past advertisements, which usually focused on men attracting women.


AXE has recently launched its “Is it OK for guys…” advertising campaign. Source:

While advertising in general is making moves in the right direction, Juliet Williams, a gender studies professor at the University of California, Los Angeles believes there is still a long way to go, according to the New York Times article. Ads for household items that once featured only women might now also feature men, but they often continue to portray stereotypically “manly” images of men – mostly strong men in masculine clothes.

Furthermore, in the last few years as gender roles are changing and men are becoming more involved in child care, brands have slowly begun to reflect the shift in their marketing efforts. Dove Men+Care, for example, is another brand that is changing the way men are portrayed in advertising. This brand launched a new campaign this month that celebrates men as caregivers and positive influences in children’s lives – fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, and even coaches. The campaign also communicates that caring is what makes men strong, instead of focusing on physical strength and emotional toughness.

Many other brands such as those in the household products and grocery industries are realizing the changing gender norms and adjusting their marketing to be more inclusive of men. This is happening as men are becoming more and more involved in household duties such as childcare and grocery shopping. Just as women are increasingly empowered to step outside of traditional gender roles, our society is realizing that men should too. Several brands, such as AXE and Dove Men+Care are taking the lead in applying this to their marketing efforts.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • What is another example of a brand that is moving towards non-stereotypical portrayal of men in their advertising efforts?
  • What hurdles might the AXE brand encounter as the messaging of its ads changes so dramatically? How might the brand benefit from the shift?