It's far from easy being a women in the 21st century, but it's far more difficult to be a man. I remember getting excited once I understood where articles like this were coming from, back when I was working on ghd. I remember pushing for ideas that tapped into the new narrative that was, and is, developing. The new confidence and momentum from young women who believe the world is there for the taking, no contradiction between beauty and brains and the sheer joy in both indepence, possibility and sisterhood.
That was the REAL theme to Sex and the City, that was when the blood drained from my face when I first saw this:
I remember twiddling with a creative brief about that, along with creative starters with iconic images of women who have taken on the world and won, with just a ghd logo on them - from Coco Chanel to Madonna, from Sophia Coppola to The Williams Sisters- along with a whole host of unsung heroes too. After seeing the Boots work, what was the point? I guess that's the danger of replaying culture back rather than influencing, or working from the brand out, someone else will have got to where you have, often quicker.
That's why I like this Diet Coke stuff, it provokes rather than follows. It rejects the relentless pressure for women to achieve and be the best that they can be and just have fun - lighten up...which sticks to the brand truth of the Diet Coke break.
There's an existing narrative for what it means to be woman, but it's confusing to know how to be a man. Women are outperforming men and everything, you'd expect we'll reach critical mass and the crap way mothers are treated at work will disappear and the glass ceiling and unbalance at home is redressed like it is at work.....in short, male confidence is taking a beating. Young men don't know how to be.
So you can see the context for all that great Old Spice work and stuff discussed here. But I'm not sure it's all really good enough. Of course they're commercially powerful and offer men in culture a sense of confidence in being a real man like they used to be. But isn't that just prolonging the problem? Just maybe, airy fairy men with emotional intelligence, using hand moisturised and crying at films is exactly what is needed, as long as they can also be strong and dependable too.
Modern culture is all about identity construction - becoming lots of different versions of you rather than a simple, consistent and unrealistic you, as discussed in Grant Mccraken's Transformations - this is only accelerated by Web 2.0 and the ability to join even more distinct communities than ever before - you can explore alter egos at will.
Women get this instinctively, in the old patriarchal world they were required to be the caring Mum, the cook, the concubine, the dutiful daughter and the community pillar. While that's changed, any working Mum transforms every time she drives home from work to pick up the kids, and again when the kids go to bed...and no I don't assume that's the women's job, i hate the fact it is, but all the data paints this as the picture in most married homes. There is no contradiction in these pictures of Serena Williams for example:
Men don't get this yet, despite the fact all people are all chameleons and actors to some extent, they're still encouraged to buy into a one dimensional view of masculinity, rather than embrace all the things they are, or could be.
Yes, men can and maybe should be the strong person who knows what to do when the car breaks down, personally I lament the lost skills of being able to fix things, but they can be caring father, the vulnerable friend and even the vain fashion dandy as well.
Until men feel able to explore a more complex (and true) version of masculinity, they'll grow up as confused as they are now.
That's one reason I love Mad Men, it's about lots of things but at heart of it is Don's identity, a man who has completely invented himself and performs outwardly as the quintessential male ideal, while inside he's confused, conflicted and lost.
Put another way, I'd be looking for the MEN your man could smell like.