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Brands that want to participate in cultural discourse often wait for the “Days” - Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, Father’s Day, Daughter’s Day and so on, in order to do so. A new addition to the list is ‘International Men’s Day’ on November 19. Brands that sell products to men, and hence have a reason to champion masculinity, often produce content for the day. In any case, they also try to lend a voice to and speak up for men on other days as well. In a cultural discourse dominated by women’s voices and issues, these brands aim to speak up for men.

What kind of a stance do the brands take when they speak up for men?  Do they present an idealistic vision and try to reshape currently accepted notions of masculinity?  Or do they just try to emotionally connect with the audience by mirroring their current beliefs around a compelling story?

To find out, we examine branded content by brands such as The Man Company, Mens XP, Bombay Shaving Company, through the various stances they have taken in their branded content:

The Man Company - Gentleman Kise Kehte Hai?

“Gentleman Kise Kehte Hai” is a spoken-word poem narrated impactfully by Ayushmann Khurrana. The poem touches upon several expectations that are imposed upon men. It challenges common conceptions of masculinity such as being physically strong, emotionally closed-up or being responsible.

The poem celebrates differences that exist between men and women, while advocating the need to respect those differences and not use them as the basis for further discrimination.

The Man Company - Gentleman Tum hi Toh ho yaar

Another recent video by The Man Company, “Gentleman Tum hi Toh ho yaar”, consists of a narrative that regales consumers with touching descriptions of men and manliness. It depicts men dancing, smiling, crying in addition to working and carrying out responsibilities. The video celebrates men in the same fashion as women by putting emphasis on their hair and eyes.

Notably, the word ‘dare’ is subverted in the video by showing cross-dressing casually as daring instead of an adrenal pumping activity.

In the aforementioned pieces of content from The Man Company, an ‘entertainer stance’ is visible. While the messaging is derived from everyday lived culture, the set of signs provide an aspirational picture.

Although these videos communicate the harshness of imposed values on men and the lack of celebration of their certain aspects; at the same time, they paint a picture of men with the same palette that is used for women. So, the gentleman is defined as someone who feels pain and terminologies like “kahar dhana” - Hindi for causing havoc with one’s look, used usually for females is effortlessly used for men.

So, the content uses the mainstream stereotypes, but creates engagement with the consumers by turning these stereotypes into aspirations.

Bombay Shaving Company - All Guys Are the Same

Bombay Shaving Company gets a bunch of men and women together who then answer questions like what makes men happy or sad, what men want the most, what’s the best or worst thing about being a man etc.

The video is a simple yet profound exercise in how men perceive themselves and how they are perceived by others. It ends with an elementary conclusion too - ‘all guys are not the same’.

Branded content such as this is a visible example of the ‘connector stance’. It mirrors the mainstream culture as is, and repeats the experiences of consumers. Such experiences give the consumer a semblance of relatability and thus enhance the potential to forge engagement with the brand values.

MensXP - Don’t Man Up

‘Don’t Man Up’ produced on International Men’s Day by MensXP plays out as an appeal by Bhuvan Bam to not “man up”. It motivates men to share their feelings earnestly even at the cost of being perceived as vulnerable.

MensXP video is a good illustration of the ‘progressive stance’. It is rooted in a culture where men are motivated to hide their emotions. Such a culture dissuades conversing about or sharing one’s problem.

MensXP’s video strives to change the mainstream culture via its messaging. In its ridicule of toxic machoism, the video imagines a safe space for men where they do not feel pressured to “man up”.

Man Matters - Men Don’t Talk

“Men Don’t Talk” is a four and a half minutes monologue delivered by actor Divyenndu for the male wellness platform Man Matters.

It is quite similar to the MensXP video in its messaging. However, Divyenndu adopts a more persistent tone as he recounts the harmful effects of a culture formed on the basis of toxic masculinity.

The video by Man Matters talks about various social roles that men comfortably play. These are the archetypes that form the basis of popular culture such as men who love discussing politics or men who eagerly watch sports together. However, most men abjure a ‘self-assessment’ of their own feelings.

Thereafter, the video adopts a hopeful tone encouraging men to indulge in self-care. It provides for them a platform to speak up or share that is Man Matters. The brand thus positions itself here in a limited activist cum progressive stance. It presents itself as a possible solution to some of the problematic patterns within a culture shaped by one-dimensional masculinity.


At the heart of these videos lies a challenge to behaviour codes of the lived culture. Their shared imaginary is concerned with defining and debating masculinity while challenging the pre-existing codes. The videos ponder upon the question of who is a man/gentleman and what it means to be one. Branded content on emergent narratives of masculinity uses tools such as empathetic portraits of men (as in The Man Company) or testimonials (as in Bombay Shaving Company) to engage with consumers.

Male health and wellness brands today are trying to have cultural conversations that highlight gaps in the existing value system that in turn can be effectively used for brand positioning. In their own capacity, they are also aiming to broaden the shared imaginary to connect with more men.