A conversation with the two men behind Procter & Gamble’s most talked-about brand content channel.
Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant, has an online destination that aims to teach men the essentials of domestic life. The site, which offers columns like “Ask a Pregnant Lady” and “Relationships After Divorce,” has proven its popularity with fathers and husbands in the short period since its June 2010 launch. Articles provide advice on relationships, parenting, cooking, cleaning and health through a dizzying array of titles such as “Conquering Sex Problems” or “What Diet Coke and Mentos Can Teach Your Kids.” The site is run through a partnership with the interactive marketing communications firm Barefoot Proximity, which also manages Procter & Gamble’s branded site, HomeMadeSimple.com.
Jeremy Seth Davis: Let’s talk about the background behind ManoftheHouse.com. It’s a publishing venture that differentiates itself from a lot of other publications that target men. What was the overall strategy in launching the site?
David Germano: Craig and I were involved with Procter & Gamble through our agency, Barefoot Proximity. We manage an existing P&G property, HomeMadeSimple.com, and began to notice that men are getting more involved in taking care of the household and the kids.
We also noticed that there was an unmet need for men who have moved past the ”hunting” stage of their younger years. We set out to attract our target audience of dads who have kids under 18 years old. There is a lot of content out there for single men, but there was virtually no publication that targeted an audience of men with young kids. One of the philosophies of the site is, “Dad is man.” We wanted to create content that speaks to the whole man.
We brought that insight and the idea of an online property back to Procter & Gamble, and we have partnered with Procter & Gamble Productions in developing ManoftheHouse.com as an online property that provides help and advice to men. We’re trying to help men adjust to this new role, because dads are now doing things that their fathers didn’t do, and our research has indicated that they are looking for help online through content and information.
Davis: A lot of companies find it difficult to develop content without having it sounding like “advertorials.” Consumers tend not to trust the content and they don’t trust what they’re reading when they feel like they’re being sold to. How do you deal with this?
Craig Heimbuch: We put the reader first and foremost and we help him in every way possible. We create genuine content for real people, and we create a context for our content so that advertisers and sponsors can deliver their message to an already engaged reader. It doesn’t do a lot of good if a reader is not engaged, and we’ve found that the best way to do that is to deliver content that helps him.
Davis: Can you speak about some of the specific market research that helped you develop your focus for ManoftheHouse.com?
Heimbuch: The stat that we have been using is that nearly a third of all primary grocery shoppers are men. We also know that men handle about a third of household responsibilities, as opposed to 15 percent in the 1960s. Because of the changing role of women in American society, the role of men has also dramatically shifted. Dual-income households are about 42 percent of U.S. households, and about 1 million men are stay-at-home dads.
Davis: What is the editorial process like at ManoftheHouse.com? How has being a Procter & Gamble Productions publication benefitted you in terms of getting closer access to sources and information?
Heimbuch: The editorial team sits down and comes up with the editorial calendar for a year, and then we break it down quarter-by-quarter into the stories that we are going to create. My background is in newspapers and magazines, and we bring that process to ManoftheHouse.com. It’s like any other publication in that regard. We decide what we are going to do for the year, and then execute. It helps that many of us on the editorial team fit into our target audience. We are able to look ahead and say, “These are going to be the main sticking points in this man’s life: If he’s a new dad, he’s going to be thinking about what to do for Mothers’ Day.” So we start working on our Mothers’ Day articles in January.
In terms of working with Procter & Gamble Productions, you have access to resources that you might have had to work a lot harder to get. It’s really nice when I’m doing a story about hair loss to be able to call up and say, “Hey, do you have any research scientists who work on hair loss?” And they can say, “Well, yes we do, and here’s who to get in touch with.”
Davis: Let’s discuss the effect that the site has had on your marketing efforts at P&G.
Germano: It is a brand-relevant site, but it’s not a branded site. What this means is that ManoftheHouse.com does not exclusively feature P&G products on the site. For example, we have a contributor who is an expert in cleaning and he recommends a competitive product in one of his how-to articles. To establish ourselves as a credible resource for our audience, it’s important for us to talk about other brands. With this in mind, we are definitely pursuing sponsorships by brands not owned by P&G.
We could have chosen to build any kind of media property for the purpose of monetizing and generating revenue. We chose to serve an underserved audience, which are dads. Dads were a segment of the population that no one seemed to be engaging with any kind of serious intent. No one was acknowledging the fact that dad’s role is changing and becoming more of an important force in the household.
What’s more, he is taking on more responsibilities and he is now very persuasive in terms of the kinds of brands that are being purchased for the household. Now that we have launched ManoftheHouse.com, we are finding that it has been easier to initiate a lot of conversations simply because people are recognizing that it’s time to start talking to dads. That is an important part of our model. It certainly was an important part of the underpinning of what we’re trying to achieve with ManoftheHouse.com
Heimbuch: This has been an opportunity to change the conversation about what it means to be a dad. What we worked very hard to do is take a very serious look at a dad’s life and talk to him as a man and help him as a man. A large part of the content is weighted very heavily around that insight. We look at questions such as is this going to help him? Is this going to change the tone of the conversation about what it means to be a dad from a larger perspective?
Author Jeremy Seth Davis is a financial journalist who has been published in the New York Daily News, FT.com, and Investment Dealers’ Digest. He develops content strategies and marketing materials for financial service firms.