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How Women’s D2C Brands Can Get Men To Buy

Valentine's Day Shopportunity
Valentines day marketing to men

I’m a woman who spends a lot of time on Instagram (hey, it’s part of my job). Scrolling through my feed, the ads I see are seemingly endless options for stylish custom bras and underwear designed for a range of sizes and shapes, not just supermodels. I appreciate the efforts marketers are making to be more inclusive of different bodies and preferences, bringing ads a lot closer to reality. Not long ago, before social media ushered in the era of D2C brands, my options for finding cute undergarments were more limited. At some point, whether we liked it or not, many of us found ourselves standing in the doorway of that fragrant bastion of padded bras and g-strings, Victoria’s Secret.

Perusing crotchless panties in public can feel about as comfortable as hitting up Duane Reade on a Saturday morning for Plan B (for a friend, obvs). But then you see someone who is likely having an even harder time, quietly plucking items off racks, trying to go unnoticed. I call him the lone wolf, because there is seldom more than one man at a time in VS. Never having been this man myself, I can’t presume to know his thoughts, feelings, or even his real agenda. But there’s evidence to suggest that a significant number of these men are shopping for gifts, and the staff is more than happy to help them.

Early February is when the lone wolf starts his hunt, seeking the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Victoria’s Secret isn’t the only retailer grappling for a piece of the $20.7 billion Valentine’s Day box of chocolates. In fact, they’re increasingly challenged by brands who can reach men discreetly from the comfort of their mobile devices. Unencumbered by years of established brand expectations, these nimble competitors can be whoever they need to be for different customers.

Adoreme instagram ad - DTC brands target the gifter - men
Stoneandstrand instagram post - Rings targeting men on valentine's day
D2C brands take on the Valentine’s Day market with a variety of incentives.

When working with smaller retailers, you have to segment your audiences practically.  But last year it occurred to me that the holiday presented an opportunity to cast a wider net. Enter my “shopportunity”, beloved luxury costume jewelry brand Lizzie Fortunato. Jewelry that won’t be confused for an engagement piece, that’s revered by those in the know, and that doesn’t require a trip to the store.

Considering the brand’s largely untapped male market, a tempting proposition revealed itself: Could I snag the go-it-alone guy, and if so, how?

Mission in hand and client on board, I designed my experiment.

Platform: Facebook—it’s cost-efficient and flexible.

Targets: Men AND women (I needed a control group), bucketed by relationship status.  

Delivery: We opted to use dynamic creative ads, allowing Facebook to mix and match the headlines and images it found most effective.

Creative: Cracking the nuance that drives purchase for a new audience is not something you can assemble haphazardly, we had to base our test in proven positioning.
So, we pulled four previously identified impetuses for buying:

What did we learn?

Men will buy. While I didn’t see a flood of men rushing to our checkout, their shopping behavior was much more deliberate than their female counterparts (fewer abandoned carts).

Singles aren’t buying for themselves—at least, not on Feb. 14. Marketers like to promote the “treat yo self” moment during holidays. The rise of the longtime single millennial seems to support this approach. The reality is that only 11% of singles are buying for themselves on Valentine’s Day.

Married people are a different story. Unlike singles, they are buying for both themselves and for their significant others. In retrospect, the latter makes sense. To take a leap of faith on a gift that’s as personal as jewelry requires knowing someone well. Anyone who has received a gift from their partner that misses the mark by a mile will know what I’m talking about. Security in choice is an important factor.

Most of our top-performing creative promoted “send a hint” functionality, which showed a strong correlation with sales.
Most of our top-performing creative promoted “send a hint” functionality, which showed a strong correlation with sales.

People aren’t afraid to tell each other what they want.
Having a world of options at your fingertips is a blessing and a curse. Brands have a huge opportunity to facilitate the wishlist conversation between couples, friends, and loved ones.

We’d only just cracked open the door to a non-female audience. Married men converted at the same rate as married women, with our second-highest category ROI. But left to its own devices, Facebook will target the lower-hanging fruit (women). We’d have to be more deliberate in our delivery to male audiences to reach them at scale.