Opinion

No-one is talking about Lynx’s chauvinism U-turn, and that’s the problem

Lynx's recent shift away from its chauvinistic past was revelatory. But the fact that the Australian marketing industry didn't blink an eyelid is a sign of a wider problem, writes Nick Braddy.

From sexual conquerors and objectifiers of women to champions of diversity, Lynx’s recent one-eighty is significant for so many reasons. Yet since its launch in 2016, the complete lack of response from Australian marketers and industry only reinforces the national health problem we face.

In developing its new global platform ‘Find Your Magic’, Lynx found a huge rift in what their brand stood for and the causes behind the growing crisis in men’s mental health around the world.

Research has found that men have a greater propensity towards racism, misogyny, sexual aggression and violence (domestic and otherwise) which is underpinned by significant mental health indicators: men are at higher risk of anxiety, depression and suicide.

One of the key causes behind these issues is the narrow definition of what a man is supposed to be (strong, stoic, powerful, defined by economic and sexual success, never weak or vulnerable etc.).

Ultimately the brand discovered that not only were they perpetuating these definitions, they also predicted this to become a significant brand and sales problem in the near future.

When this remarkable shift launched, and with the subsequent extension platforms that followed (#meninprogress / Bigger than Suicide / #IsItOkayForGuys), it made little to no noise in the Australian market. Not even from the industry.

And given that Australia’s male health statistics match those seen in the US and UK (in some areas worse), this silence is even more alarming.

Research from the Blackdog Institute identified that one of the top four causes leading to male depression and suicide is this narrow definition of masculinity.

Further research shows that only 50% of men feel comfortable talking to their mates about their mental health, feeling that they will be judged and thought of as weak. For the younger generations looking for support and guidance, fathers spend an average of less than 20 seconds talking to their teenage sons per day, and the schooling system is lagging behind in providing adequate programs.

So men are at higher risk of mental health problems, manifesting in all sorts of behavioural issues leading ultimately to alarming rates of male suicide. Yet men have inadequate support and are unwilling to seek help and talk because they believe that in doing so it will make them less of a man. A vicious cycle has formed.

This situation draws parallels to the impacts of body image faced by women. In this instance another Unilever brand, Dove, leaned into this with great creative, commercial and social success.

In this instance, the media storm and commentary that ensued was completely at odds with the deathly silence we see in the case of Lynx today.

Perhaps the Australian industry and the individuals who work in it weren’t ready for the Aussie bloke stereotype to be challenged.

All we know is that no one talked about it, no one seemed to care, which only reinforces the issue.

As marketers we need to be aware when stereotypes start to shift. In this case, the definitions of what it means to be a man in Australia in 2017 are being challenged, they have to be, and there is a marketing opportunity in that.

Not just for commercial success (early signs at Lynx is that it has and is working) but for the chance for marketing and communications to simultaneously reflect and help reshape society for the better. And wouldn’t it be nice for a brand to be part of the solution rather than the problem?

Nick Braddy is group account director at Havas Sydney. He is also an ongoing participant and volunteers with The ManKind Project Australia, a global non-for-profit focused on men’s health and development

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