This is the first draft of an article I have written for Personal Care Magazine. It may well change before it appears there.
As soon as the bandwidth on the internet became wide enough to cope with images comfortably, women started using it to talk to each other about their clothes and their makeup. Fashion and beauty blogs started to appear and have continued to do so. There are now more beauty blogs than anyone can count. There must be hundreds of thousands of them just in the UK alone. All this activity has had a huge effect on the way personal care products are marketed. Nobody in this business can afford to ignore what is going on online. In some cases new product lines owe their very existence to the new media.
But it has to be said that most of this activity has focused on, and in fact has been carried out by, the female half of the species. Men have certainly taken to the online world as enthusiastically as women have, but they have not been as quick to use it to talk about their appearance.
Nonetheless the male equivalent of beauty blogs have appeared. It wasn’t obvious what they should be called at first. Male beauty blog didn’t really sound right. Men’s blogs, by analogy with men’s magazines, wasn’t quite right either. Eventually the term grooming blog has emerged-though it could potentially still be usurped by dog owners.
There is no more a standard format for grooming blogs than there is for beauty blogs, although there is a tendency for greys rather than pinks in the colour schemes. Men’s preference for the less colourful is easy enough to satisfy. What content they might be tempted by is less obvious.
So what kind of person reads a grooming blog? A clue can be gained from my experience when I was researching this article.I asked my Twitter feed for suggestions, in three hours I had 9 suggestions from 6 tweeps, all of whom were female. Perusing the names in the comments reveals more than a smattering of female names. There are no statistics available on the gender breakdown of grooming blog readers. But there is not much doubt in my mind that female readers comprise a significant proportion of them. They might well be a majority, and possibly a big one.
From an advertiser’s point of view this is not necessarily a problem if you are looking for a platform to promote your male orientated products. There are really three personal care product markets: products for women, products for men and products bought for men by women. I sometimes think women might buy more men’s products than men do. Whatever, there is no getting away from the fact that men are not as interested in their appearance as women are. In fact that understates it. Women are often more interested in their man’s appearance than the man himself is. The grooming bloggers have their work cut out. Let’s have a look at how some of the best known ones are doing.
I started by asking my Twitter feed for suggestions. In three hours I had 9 suggestions from 6 tweeps, all of whom were female. I was tempted to repeat the experiment to see if I could find if there was a male out there interested enough in male grooming blogs to express an opinion. But I thought better of it. Twitter is a fast moving place and easily bored. With these suggestions and my own favourites list I had my list.
This is the list in rough order of popularity as measured by traffic from the Alexa website.
1. Ape to Gentleman (apetogentleman.com)
2. The GedLab (gedlab.com)
3. Grooming Guru (groomingguru.co.uk)
4. Man Face (manface.co.uk)
5. The Pampered Prince (pamperedprince.co.uk)
6. Mirror Reality (mirror-reality.com)
7. Holistic Green Beauty (holisticgreenbeauty.com)
8. nu|sk|n (nusknblog.wordpress.com)
9. Mr. Wharff (mr-wharff.com)
Ape to Gentleman
This was the first male grooming blog of which I became aware of. I think it was the first one to get any reasonable level of readership and is still an order of magnitude more popular than its nearest competitor, if Alexa ratings are to be believed. (Which a lot of web gurus say they aren’t, but they are the only ratings which are available.) ATG mixes product reviews with items of general interest to men.
Manface is run by 23 year old Thom Watson who has been doing it as a full time job for a year. The format is straight forward with lots of posts and an emphasis on reviews.
Grooming Guru is the stylish and mature face of male grooming blogs. It is run by Lee Kynaston who is proper journalist as well writing for big name titles like the Daily Telegraph. He has the professional writers skill of saying a lot in a few words, and also has a nice line in dry humour which is important when writing for men. Product reviews are the staple but there is plenty of other content as well.
nu|sk|n describes itself as a blog that tries and tests skincare. It does that, but also spends a lot of time reviewing lifestyle items like candles or even bags. The emphasis is more on sensual pleasure than actual functionality. This is a very personal blog and as such is an intriguing read. He seems to be well known to the high end men’s sector who provide him with numerous samples that he obviously thoroughly enjoys.
Mr Wharff hasn’t been going very long and has yet to build up much of a readership and doesn’t have a big backlog. It’s a stylish looking blog with mainly straight product reviews. It hasn’t really established its personality yet.
Gedlab describes itself as the blog for the modern man and certainly understands the way men process information. The product reviews have easy to read ratings right at the top. There are plenty of images. Everything is laid out to allow the reader to find what they are looking for quickly. It is very commercial with plenty of ads and an option to subscribe to the list, so you can carry on your hearing from them without going to the trouble of finding the website again.
Strictly speaking the grooming is only a section of what is in effect an online men’s magazine (without the traditional ‘photographic’angle). It would be interesting to know how popular the grooming bits are compared to the gadgets and lifestyle coverage.
The Pampered Prince
The Pampered Prince has been running his blog for two years. He describes himself as a beauty blogger who happens to be male, and that is pretty accurate as the format is pretty much that of a typical beauty blog. It is very much a personal view reflecting an individual’s idiosyncrasies. For example he usually includes photos of ingredient lists. This is something that I like personally, but I wonder how many men would agree. It is quite a contrast to the ruthlessly commercial Gedlab. At the moment both of these blogs are doing okay. It will be interesting to see which stays the course. Maybe they’ll both thrive in their own ways.
Mirror Reality’s front page is simply a collage of pictures which you have to click on to get to the reviews. Visual is good for tablets, good for people in a hurry and good for men who have frankly better things to do with their time than read words and stuff. The reviews themselves are a bit more conventional and have the nice personal touch of being individually signed. We also hear about the bloggers life from time to time. He is, or was, looking for a job. The blog seems to be purely a public service with no obvious advertising, so it doesn’t look like this is going to be a blog that provides a living.
Holistic Green Beauty
There are tens of thousands of blogs written by women that are simply someone’s record of the beauty products that they have used and enjoyed. They are easy to find and most of them get at least a few comments, if only from other women doing similar blogs. Lots of them are really buzzing with huge lists of comments from excited readers. Holistic Green Beauty is very much like one of those blogs, but although I don’t imagine he is the only male doing it he is the only one I can find without looking too hard. He is doing pretty well with a fair bit of engagement from his readers. But given that he writes well, is very diligent at getting posts out and covers a lot of popular stuff you would have thought he would be doing better. It is a good read if you are looking for an independent viewpoint.
(Danny who writes the blog does have a particular reason for his interest in skincare. He divulges in the about section that he has a chronic skin condition. But he doesn’t make this the focus of his blog, so I have ignored it.)
I couldn’t really include it on a list of male grooming blogs as it is almost entirely devoted to fragrances, but while on the subject of blogs written by men The Candy Perfume Boy really needs a mention. If you are reading this and wondering whether you should start a blog yourself this is the one that really shows how to do it. He produces new material nearly every day, researches thoroughly always has something to say. Fragrance is pretty much impossible to write about but this guy manages to do it and is rewarded with a very high level of response from the generally indifferent and sensation seeking inhabitants of cyberspace.
In many ways the grooming bloggers have the same problem that the whole male personal care product sector has. Yes, yes I know men are more interested in their appearance than they have ever been before and that the sector is growing etc etc. I have been hearing this for thirty years. I don’t doubt it is true. Male products are growing and men are taking a bit more interest than they used to. But lets be frank about just what a low base we are starting from. Looking at the label of your girlfriend’s shampoo before you use it is an advance on being vaguely aware there are oddly shaped bottles that turn up in the bathroom that seem to go a bit foamy when you wash your hair with them. But it doesn’t really make you a sophisticated and informed consumer.
To be fair there are some categories that men have always been reasonably interested in. There are some very popular hair styling products. This was an area that used to be dominated by Brylcream, but newer brands are making inroads. But the rate of adoption and turnover is much slower. The launch of a new a hair gel is not going to get many men very excited. It is very different fire women. Beauty bloggers if they are lucky are obliged to respect strict PR company embargoes on launch dates for new products if they want to get samples. If they are unlucky they are reduced to moaning about how unfair it is that only the magazines and the top bloggers get a look in. By contrast, the launch of the first five bladed razor was the signal for amusement and mockery. “Don’t say a word. Just key the music, and call the chorus girls, because we’re on the edge—the razor’s edge—and I feel like dancing” as the Onion put it.
So what can the grooming bloggers do to generate interest from a gender who has been known to select Original Source Mint shampoo on the off chance it might count towards your five a day?
I think waiting for men to come to you is not going to work. You need to meet them half way. Humour is important. Keeping formats straight forward and uncluttered is good too. But perhaps the most important thing is to concentrate on solving problems. What are these products actually going to do? Women already know that they need personal care and want to make sure they buy the right one, men still regard doing nothing as a very valid option. The trick is to convince them otherwise.