Only a few years ago the dedicated shelf space for male cosmetic and personal care products was limited to shaving foam, body washes and, at a push, shaving balm. That selection has mushroomed in recent years, unveiling a mind boggling array of products catering to needs as diverse as body hair removal and self-tanning lotions.
The latest report from Datamonitor entitled Evolution of Global Consumer Trends , looks at how a clear understanding of the current consumer values, attitudes and behavior for this category combined with the current social trends, can be used to gauge what is driving buying habits.
Datamonitor's research points to a polarization in male attitudes, with the more effeminate metrosexual values now living side-by-side along more macho attitudes. This, the report claims, is leading male consumers to be more unsure of what their role is at they reconcile the two extremes.
Obviously these conflicting attitudes are something marketers should be aware of when targeting males - and with cosmetic and personal care products often touching on both extremes of this spectrum, this awareness should be particularly fine-tuned.
But with the gentle erosion of these macho values, more egalitarian roles are becoming the norm, which is contributing the feminization of the male consumer, something which in turn is having a big impact on their consumer habits.
Backing this up a Datamonitor survey has shown that 73 per cent of European and US men said that spending time in front of the mirror was 'important' or 'very important', compared to 72 per cent of women with the same response.
Given this level of vanity in men, it is not surprising that Datamonitor is predicting that the European and US male personal care market is set to rise from $31.5 billion in 2003, to reach $37.6 billion in 2008.
Datamonitor's research also points to the fact that it is the younger generation that is embracing the more feminine consumer values, as they come to experiment new products and grooming practices.
A number of leading industry players are beginning to latch on to this type of demand, with L'Oreal launching its comprehensive men's skin care and personal care range, Men's Experts, on the global market towards the end of last year.
Likewise increasingly sophisticated products that have traditionally catered to female vanities are being marketed to men. Last week CosmeticsDesign-Europe featured the latest launches for the men's personal care segment in Europe, featuring anti-wrinkle creams, bronzing products and toning gels from manufacturers that included Biersdorf and Shiseido.
However, Datamonitor also points out that, at the same time, a lot of the old macho attitudes still exist - a fact that marketers should not avoid. Boys will be boys, the report states, implying that they still like cars and beer. And for this segment of the market the feminization of other males is often held in contempt.
Datamonitor believes that male grooming can be produced and marketed according to these contradicting values by adjusting the market mix accordingly - something that can be achieved through product mix and distribution strategies.
The report singles out one particular example of a 'metrosexual' product utilizing an unusual distribution channel: O'Keeffe's Working Hands Handcreme, which in the US is being distributed through hardware and home center channels.
This strategy provides a good means of making a supposedly feminine product seem more acceptable because it is being channeled through a traditionally macho retail environment.
The positioning of male personal care products is going to be vital to the success of future product launches if marketers want to say on the right side of the consumer. Either way, this seems to point to a tricky balancing act.