Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Listening to Khakis: What America's Most Popular Pants Tell Us about the Way Guys Think"






















Raquel Aguilar, Melinda Lopez, Matthew Scherer, Bobby Lewis
Advertising Criticism
July 29, 2009


Malcolm Gladwell, “Listening to Khakis: What America’s Most Popular Pants Tell Us about the Way Guys Think”

Description of Topic: Gladwell presents various examples of successful strategies deployed by advertising agencies that rely heavily on the “selectivity hypothesis.” In a nutshell, the premise of this hypothesis states that men and women process information by a completely different set of criteria. In short, the article represents the notion that “men eliminate” information in an attempt to simplify “the route to a conclusion.” Women on the other hand are said to “integrate” information and in doing so process information comprehensively. These concepts juxtaposed against one another fuels the premise by which certain ad campaigns such as Dockers, Bugle Boy Jeans, and Evian Natural Spring Water are analyzed. Gladwell examines opinions presented by a range of advertising executives as well as findings derived through both academic and psychological studies. Ultimately, this essay credits successful advertising as being contingent upon how information is disseminated to the different genders.

Summary of Key Points: Gladwell provides indisputable facts with regard to the success of certain advertising campaigns and lays the groundwork for dissecting the psychology behind the advertisements. For example, the essay states that “seventy percent of American men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five own a pair of Dockers, and khakis are expected to be as popular as bluejeans by the beginning of the next century.” These statistics are credited with the success of the unconventional Dockers ads that aired in 1987. These ads provided unprecedented success in terms of marketing fashion to the American male, a demographic who, according to a study conducted by two psychologists at studied at York University, lacks an appreciation for details. These ads along with other advertisements have relied heavily on understanding the “emotional underpinnings” and psyche of the American male. Gladwell brings to light the intentional use of subtlety in campaigns such as “Nice Pants” and Bugle Boy Jeans. He also addresses the fine line that the advertising community walks with regard to reaching the male audience. Concerns for alienating and condescending this particular demographic are explored and defended.

Discussion Questions:

1. The essay suggests that men have extreme difficulty differentiating verbal and non-verbal messages simultaneously in advertising. Guys, what is your response to this assertion? Why do you feel advertisers have this mindset when trying to appeal to males?

2. The essay utilizes different ad campaigns as examples and categorizes them as either male or female based off of aesthetics, text, etc. Think of a favorable ad you have recently seen (tv, print, anything) and describe which of the two categories you think it would fall and why?

3. In the Dockers ads of the 80s and 90s the men are consistently portrayed as average in fashion status. This is validated when the essay states guys who dress nice and emit too much self-confidence are no longer perceived as masculine, but more feminine. Do you feel this is a valid assertion? Do you think this ideology hinders the potential of new Dockers consumers? How do you think these kind of ideals have evolved over the past few years?





28 comments:

jennifervaladez said...

I think that a couple of years ago advertisments for men used to be the more laid back in the bar scene hanging out with the guys. These ads worked and sold thier products very well, but today we see more ads for men as the clean cut man who dresses nice. These ads work today. Today men who are well taken care of physically will get noticed more.

Tara said...

The difference in the two types of ads, having "boy's time" or a good-looking model in nice clothes, changes its audience appeal. It seems any one can be "one of the boys" with the former, adn anyone can get "one of the girls" with the later. This doesn't mean persay that a guy wanting a girl would go out and get that outfit (for some it may) but that this is what (many) of the females today are attracted to. Therefore the audince is again in pursuit of women as consumers. As a girl form the audience I see that the model is attractive and would want to get that outfit for my fiance (hypothetically). However the "Docker's world" commercial tunes me out, its relativly funny, but I wouldn't buy that pair of pants for him because it doesn't pertain to me, or rather, that could be any pair of pants, why go with Dockers? So as a female audience member I would go with the models brand (to get for the guy), but I could also see how and why the male companionship ad would be more desireable for men.

KG said...

I think the Docker's commercials did well at advertising with the generation of the baby boomer dads however this goes back to how the baby boomer generation were so use to that kind of ad that they probably didn't get very many young men to buy their pants after that. Although they were the best at their time it would have definitely helped them out in the end to change their advertising. Nothing last forever and change can make things happen.

Kristen said...

I think that now it is ok to use a good looking guy and people dont necessarily think hes gay or whatever or it doesnt turn them off from buying the clothes I think that increasingly men have gotten more into fashion and what their wearing just like women and in todays society it is not percieved as gay if a man is wearing designer jeans

Travis said...

Ads for men genreally are much more simple in their nature. The older ads were interesting because of how random and undirected they were. They used a technique to try and just casually push khakis into an everyday situation and just be discrete about its presence. This seemed to try and send a reality to consumers that khakis were the new causal pant. Now ads use good looking men which is fine but an old idea; They need a new advertising campaign such as showing people all over the world in all sorts of different situations wearing khakis. I believe the 'reality' or 'true story' 'lifestlye' format is the one that is selling and will continue to sell because it reminds us all that we are human and not robots of a concocted consumer dream world.

jprice21 said...

During out conversation in class about advertising to men I felt that men were being put into a kind of serious stigma. I feel as if I am, when I try, a semi stylish male. In many cases I feel that I am not as simple as was projected in the class. I enjoy finer things from finer retailers thus I don't feel that a simple ad would do what might be necessary for me to buy a product. I would need some serious advertising for a serious man.

A.J. Scherer said...

The ads for men today are very different than the ads from years ago. Today's ads include more clean cut guys and consequently are geared more towards them. So advertisements change as the culture changes.

mfinley said...

Commenting on question 3, I don't think that men who care about how they look are trying to be more feminine then masculine, they just simply care about their appearance. I also think that it depends on where men are going. I know with my fiancee, it depends solely on where he is going. If we are going to church or out to dinner, then he will dress up sometimes even wearing dockers. But going to HEB or other kind of shopping, he tends to be more relaxed in what he wears. Another thing I have noticed, which we talked about today as a class, is how men will always use the same products they have been using for years. Again, my fiancee will use the exact same deodorant. He won't even consider using a different brand. Men like to stick with what they know.

StephSellsCShells said...

The (I believe) parenting.org commercial makes it "easy" for men to get the idea. Though-I don't believe men are that simple minded-they can be just as devious and plotting as women. Anyway-back to the point-in the commercial there isn't any talking. One just sees a dad rolling around in his own yard w/ a water gun until he gets "shot" by his little boy. The dad dramatically dies...of hypersaturation I guess. (jk sorry). It's obviously geared toward fathers because at the end it mentions "anyone can be a father-it takes a lot to be a Dad." However-the fact that the body of the commercial is simply the playtime between father and son can ease a simple man's mind into the theme of the ad without the text. As far as aesthetics-it's not artistic or symbolic. Simply a man and his boy. A guy can get that.

christinasan05 said...

durring the presentation and discussion people kept using examples that sterotyped men into style-less robots, and i kept thinking to myself, this can't all be true...yeah, some men are creatures of habbit and stick to the same stuff but that doesn't mean ad's don't apeal to them (the dockers ad did aparently). AND there are also some men who like to try new things and pay attention to details (especially when it comes to their appearence) and they aren't always gay. it almost seems like some women would prefer to have a style-less robot for a boyfriend or husband...

mgarcia44 said...

I think mean back then didnt really care for what kind of jeans or cloths they wore but dookers gave them the sense that those jeans are the best for everything, now in days there are so many different lines of pants for men, men are actually looking at what they like and how it feels, if its using them for work, or just hanging around the house. I know that i care what type of pants I buy.

aarismendez said...

it's a sign of the times. in advertisements out now men are dressed up and looking sharp. i'm not sure if i've seen any ads lately where a guy is just in jeans and a tshirt. and with the men of today who care about their looks and appearances, there is more competition out for that particular market because they are the ones known to go out and choose their own purchases.

alex.jimenez said...

Although in the 90's the trend was starting to develop, today's confident, well dressed and groomed man is known as being metro sexual. It is a more feminine view of the "man of today", but also becoming a very common one. I think the essay is correct in this assertion. I think that companies like Dockers are already transforming their line of khakis to fit the metro-man of today. They have developed different styles, cuts, and colors depending on the occasion and buyer. You can go for the average pleated, loose-fit khakis or you can do a dark, boot-cut slack. I think if marketed to both kinds of men, it will only help business, not diminish it.

ashley said...

Over the years we have seen an increase in the number of men who have taken hold of the fashion industry and are making it more of marketable audience. With the term "Metro-sexual", men are more aware of personal hygiene. It could be because they are trying to impress women, that society tells them to do so, or musicians made it fashionable. We may never know the true reasons why men feel the need to "dress to impress", but as a woman I am certainly glad they did.

Bethany Woodard said...

few years back the advertisers targeted males in a laid-back way. I do notice that men who dress well are perceived as being more feminine because they didn't just throw something on. Ads targeted the "cool" guy as being scruffy and rugged, not caring how he dressed. Companies like Dockers want to make men feel comfortable wearing nice clothes, because society doesn't. Today, however, more men are dressing up and getting noticed and society is slowly changing how it looks at the way men dress.

elackey said...

I feel that back then and now are still simliar on how they try to sell to male consumers. Early eightes had what was considered "appealing" looking men then, we have what feel is appealing to us. The ways in which we try to sell to consumers is still quit simliar now too, men all hanging around having a good time, "brotherhood" at its finest. I think depending on the times they try to corolate with what is most common. If some brand is not hip or popular then it is not gonna get popular instinly. It will have to take some time inorder to do so.

Maya said...

I think that today's world is putting a lot of emphasis on presentation so the idea of being well dressesed applies to both genders. Also, I think that the need for constant cosumption changes our way of thinking.

Claudia Flores said...

There is a relatively new Dockers ad that shows men wearing Dockers that are not just your average male but also features men dress nice and sophisticated whether they are going to work, hanging out on the weekend, or going to some fancy dinner. The ideals have evolved because now the ads show a higher fashion status that men are using these pants for multiple settings and it also goes to show that they have better quality pants that can be worn with a nice jacket and even to play golf with. The ad featured is definitely showcasing masculinity with some fashion taste that perhaps can be perceived more by women than men who watch the commercial.

rhiannonmj said...

I think the idea of a well dressed man equaling femininity is still out there but is more mainstream and has been made "ok" by celebrities and other people in the public eye. Part of the change that took place had to do with advertising trying to reach a new market, gay men. The term used in "Commodity Lesbianism" is Gay Window Advertising which essentially says that ads today work to appeal to the gay community with identifiers but at the same time keep heterosexual men oblivious to that side of things in an attempt to keep their products from being associated solely with homosexuals.

katie parry said...

It's pretty obvious that more men exist today that care about fashion and are confident in their style. In the 80's and 90's, it was more appealing for men to not care about fashion per se, but still want to look nice. I don't believe the transition has hindered potential Dockers consumers because they are seen as nice pants which fashionable men, as well as men with "average fashion status" can feel stylish in.

KristaBishop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KristaBishop said...

I do feel that men who dress nice and fashionable are perceived as more feminine. I think this is true because of the new style called metro-sexual. I saw a guy walking on campus today wearing a skin tight shirt. I viewed him as metro and more feminine because girls usually wear tight shirts.

KristaBishop said...

I do feel that men who dress nice and fashionable are perceived as more feminine. I think this is true because of the new style called metro-sexual. I saw a guy walking on campus today wearing a skin tight shirt. I viewed him as metro and more feminine because girls usually wear tight shirts.

Lauren Self said...

The Docker's ad to me is typical of guys just hanging out with each other, and that is why it works. Not once did the guys mention that they where wearing Dockers. Today I think that an ad like this would appeal to the more laid back male, but not as much to the male that takes more of an interest in fashion. Today ads actually talk about the product being sold and usually use sex to sell their products, which attracts men.

BrittanyDe said...

Why do you feel advertisers have this mindset when trying to appeal to males?

I think this is because men for the most part are easy to please and don't typicaly care about the details. Just show them a picture and maybe a little bit of text or verbal messages and that's plenty for them. They don't need to know the reasons why they should buy them, just show them the the product in a way that makes them think they will look "cool" or comfortable and their happy.

bgutierrez1 said...

The way the men in the Levis Dockers “Crossword” commercial interacted with each other was so random and made no sense at all. However, the idea of these men just hanging out and not taking anything too seriously was appealing to men because they could relate their personal experiences of hanging out with the buddies to the ad. What’s really interesting about this commercial is that I don’t think it would appeal to women. If it was women talking randomly and playing with their food in a commercial it wouldn’t be well received and would fail to make a positive association to the product. Its proof that men and women are reached differently through advertising.

chris_colmenero said...

I THINK THIS IS A VERY INTERESTING TOPIC BECAUSE MY FATHER HAS ALWAYS WORN DOCKERS AND WHEN HE NEEDS SOME TYPE OF DRESS PANT THE ONLY LABEL HE KNOWS IS DOCKERS. I AM NOT SURE IF IT WAS THE EARLY ADS THAT INSTILLED THIS IN HIM AND MADE HIM THINK THEY ARE THE ONLY DRESS PANT OUT THERE. TODAY ADDS ARE NOT AS SIMPLE THEY ARE MORE COMPLEX BECAUSE MEN HAVE BECOME MORE INTO THEMSELVES THEIR IMAGE AND WHAT THEY WEAR

Katelyn said...

I think that dockers are an American staple like gap or guess. I think that it would make sense for dockers to change their ads as our culture is changing. Men are dressing more clean cut and nice and if dockers wants to stay in the game they will have to move with the times.