So the great Marian Salzman has declared that the term “metrosexual” is passé.  No, it’s dead and now being replaced with the term “übersexual”.  This supposedly describes a man who cares about how he looks, but is not a narcissist, and who adheres to traditional manly virtues such as honor, confidence sans the obnoxiousness, and is a good conversationalist.  We’re supposed to think George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, not David Beckham or Jude Law.

This is such bullshit, particularly when it serves to take marketers’ eyes off the “ball,” i.e., understanding their customers.

First, there have always been men who cared about their looks.  GQ and Esquire have been around for several decades, and are still going strong.  Second, there have always been—and will continue to be—narcissists.  I think what happened with the “metrosexual” thing is that mainstream media finally discovered all of these men among us who care about how they look.

Let’s face it: Times change, which brings with it evolving attitudes about many things—race, gender, sexuality, fashion, to name a few.  Software developers were nerds back in the day, and that was a derogatory term.  These days, however, it’s cool to be into tech and to write code, particularly if it’s yielded a fat bank account.  It’s not that there are suddenly more software developers, but that they’re now seen in a new light.  When I was growing up in Cleveland, pimps were never revered.  However, now it seems that many young men aspire to that lifestyle, even if not literally.  Time has removed enough of the stigma with “pimpin’” much as it has with the N word (at least among some African Americans).

I agree with John Winsor’s comments about the necessity for marketers to get out from behind their desks if they really want to understand customers.  I’ll take it a step further and say this: It’s not just about understanding them, it’s about understanding them their relationship to your brand.  What does the übersexual mindset have to do with your brand?  How does it shape perception of your brand?  I haven’t read Salzman’s latest book, but I certainly hope she’s doing more than just reporting from the front, i.e., we interviewed a bunch of people, here’s what they said, and here’s what we’re going to call this trend.

What I need—what all smart marketers need—is context.  Psychographic groups don’t just come out of nowhere.  There are always social and cultural forces at play that impact both the group and mainstream perceptions of it.  Without a true understanding of this larger context, brand marketers run the risk of simply chasing fads. 

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Posted by Rob Fields