Last weekend, while walking through the Eaton Center Sears store with my wife, I was confronted by a humongous wall ad for Diesel’s Iron Man cologne.
“I can’t imagine who the market is for that,” I said. “I wouldn’t buy that as anything but a gag gift, and I’m a pretty huge comics nerd. And the guys who are more hardcore than me—the ones who buy the figurines and the tee shirts and stuff—they’re not known for buying a lot of cologne.”
And my wife replied: “Maybe that’s because no one ever made cologne shaped like Iron Man’s fist?”
She’s smart, my missus.
I’ve no hard evidence to support this, but lately I’ve been thinking that the perfumiers of the world have latched onto the male nerd as an untapped demographic. To be clear, when I say “male nerd”, I’m not talking about the Comic Shop Guy from The Simpsons, the slovenly odiferous troglodyte whose real-but-minority presence in the geek subculture has websites tacking “wash with soap” onto every convention-etiquette checklist. Inception doesn’t make $265 million on ticket sales to the Comic Shop Guy. The Lost finale doesn’t play to 13.5 million iterations of him. And even when you strip women out of those audience numbers, you’re still left with a whole metric fuck-ton of dudes with disposable income and good grooming habits, but something shy of the full-on commitment to man-scaping evinced by the average Calvin Klein model.
The perfect encapsulation of this esprit de Green Lantern Corps is the Old Spice Guy. A built-to-be-viral phenomenon, OSG is a writer’s creation—not a photographer’s—and showcases a modern masculinity that requires an ironic wit as well-defined as one’s pectoral muscles. These are not jokes for jocks.
Even more forward-thinking: once these antibromic broheim have entered into the world of high-end scent for sale, the true Grail lies in convincing them to cross the aisle into the world of women’s perfume, to drop some coin on a fragrance for the ladies in their lives.
Perfumiers have been seeing a shrinking product life cycle for years, forcing them to chew up profits on increased marketing and R&D. The surefire short-term answer to this problem has been the rise of the celebrity scent, but this won’t work (at least, as readily) on the genre man-fan who values cults of character and creator over those of celebrity.
Which is why I give full credit to Gucci for snagging comics icon Frank Miller and fanboy-friendly actors Chris Evans and Evan Rachel Wood to help launch Guilty: it simultaneously works as the kind of high-end art-ad the industry has been doing for years, with mass appeal to a huge demo (18-29 year-old movie fans), and strong subconscious appeal to a niche market (me).
In light of Old Spice’s sales doubling on the back of their broad-shouldered pitchman I expect to see a lot more of this type of thing in the near-future.
I’m still not buying cologne in a bottle shaped like a fist, though.