All guys own blenders. That’s not the proper name for it. But for the purposes of a family newspaper, let’s just say that blender possession is a male prerequisite and leave it at that.
I am personally fairly shy by nature, and not inclined to discuss my blender — or any part of my kitchen — with anyone who is not a member of the medical profession. So it’s jarring, to say the least, to log on in the morning to e-mails that shriek:
GET A BIGGER BLENDER!
People I don’t know offer me mail-order methods to enhance blender performance. Make it run longer, make it purée. Or make it a wood-chipper. I know that spam is the trash-talking bottom of the advertising barrel, but it illustrates a subtler marketing trend: The desire to get men’s attention and sell them products by attacking their insecurities.
Women have been getting this for years. But ever since those Geritol commercials in the 1970s (“My wife: I think I’ll keep her!”) women’s ads have trended, slowly, toward themes of empowerment — “a fresher, more confident, more independent you!” — and how you’re just a new creme rinse or a nonflake mascara away from that. Male-focused advertising seems increasingly fearbased: Do you spend enough? Are you man enough? Are you the right kind of man? While biology defines manhood in a very precise way (see “blender, possession of”), advertisers try to hold your masculinity hostage until you concede to a certain cologne, beer or engine size.
That’s why Howie Long often shows up to tell us what kind of dog we should like, or how we should drive, in order to live up to the masculinity of our truck. I guess it works. The roads these days are crowded with huge, sprawling vehicles. Many of these guys are legitimately hauling, towing or off-roading, and many others feel a need to look like it. One ad used to say: “A traffic light only gives you a few seconds to make an impression.” If you’re that concerned with the opinion of people at the last traffic light, you’re going to kill dozens of people at the next traffic light, especially if you’re driving something the size of a small office building.
Many years ago, I drank Gatorade to “be like Mike,” and turned out to be the kind of Mike who can’t slam-dunk without a cherry-picker. Like most guys, I learned from the experience and prefer to leave the “man enough” barometers back in high school. Davy Crockett didn’t toe the line at the Alamo thinking, “If only I had a Camaro.”
Here’s a thought for advertisers: If you want to sell guys something, why not tell us about your product? If it’s good, I’ll listen. If it’s explained by an attractive spokesmodel, I’ll probably listen longer. If it’s funny, I’ll watch multiple times, take the mute off when it’s on, and make my wife watch it, too. (“Here. Look, this is funny.”) Those field goal-kicking horses sold a lot of Budweiser back in the day. And not because anyone said, “Hey, if I drink enough beer, maybe I can become a field goal-kicking horse!”
There are thousands of ways to get to guys.
You don’t have to go after our blenders.