Geezer pleasers

The ‘bloke’ sector is growing with the increase in the number of men living alone and shopping for themselves. David Benady looks at how food brands are hoping to cater to them with a slew of new macho ranges

Brands have discovered a burgeoning market for ‘man foods’ and are cooking up products to feed the beast. With meaty recipes and chunky graphics, bloke brands are targeting lads bored with the ‘metrosexual’ craze who are rediscovering the funny side of being a geezer.

Golden Wonder has just launched The Nation’s Noodle, styled as ‘the guv’nor of man snacks’, taking on classic bloke brand Pot Noodle. Heinz introduced Beanz with Balls last year, aimed at young men, which uses laugh-along tabloid newspaper-style graphics. Guinness celebrated Arthur’s Day – its 250th anniversary – on 24 September with a can redesigned by Jones Knowles Ritchie showing off its trademark harp icon in an extra-large size. Coca-Cola is offering Coke Zero to men who find Diet Coke too feminine, and snack brand McCoy’s relaunched this year as a ‘man crisp’ with masculine flavours such as Flame Grilled Steak and Roast Beef & Horseradish.

So what’s the secret to giving a brand geezer appeal? And does the modern-day fella really rise to the bait?

Two trends are driving the growth of bloke brands. With a rise in single-person households, more young men are making shopping decisions. And chaps are increasingly having their mates round to watch footie on TV or play computer games. While Sex and the City did wonders for girls’ nights out, lads also want a piece of the bonding action. Marketers are at the ready, providing food and drink for the boys’ nights in.

Heinz relaunched its bangers and beans range as a bloke brand last year with jokey packaging that mimics the style of tabloid newspapers such as The Sun. The products, renamed Beanz with Balls, Red Hot Balls and Big Saucy Bangers, use mock news snippets on their packs with suggestive headlines such as ‘Hide the sausage’ and ‘Size isn’t everything’.

Chris White, senior consultant at design group Cowan, says the brand opted to target young men as they were a sector not catered for by other Heinz products. ‘We wanted to aim it at young men with hangover requirements, so we went for irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humour. We looked at TV programmes like Jackass and drink brands like WKD. The humour is not too sophisticated. It’s aimed at a low-brow audience,’ he says.

Other brands are wary of making their products too male-specific. Golden Wonder’s The Nation’s Noodle – launched in August – may profess to be a bloke brand, but its packaging designer James Ryan says that it is playing on nationalistic fervour, which can appeal to women as well. He claims sales hit 2.5 million pots in the first three weeks. The pack design bears a Union Jack symbol in different shades, using the colour codes of noodle snack products according to flavour – brown for beef, green for chicken, yellow for curry.

James Ryan, creative director at Leeds-based design group Totality GCS, says that targeting young men is a smart move by grocery brands looking for pastures new. ‘In this day and age, as markets reach saturation, you’ve got to come up with something quirky to catch people’s attention. It comes down to clever marketing and identifying niche markets,’ he says.

According to Futurebrand strategy director Adrian Goldthorpe, bloke brands are a sub-segment of the wider male market. ‘You have to recognise in your packaging design that it is for a specific segment and not stereotype all men as the same thing. The bloke is a particular type of man. There is a backlash against the metrosexual thing and some guys are thinking that, actually, it’s fun to be a bloke,’ he says.

Andy Knowles, co-founder of JKR, adds that brands such as Guinness target men but try not to alienate women. While men tend to shy away from brands that look too girly, women don’t mind buying manly brands if they aren’t too aggressively male, he says.

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