How to Manipulate Men

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Blog Post, Neuromarketing

One goal of many marketing campaigns is to convince potential customers to either sign up for a service or purchase a product.  If your product is not a “need” like water or food, you are essentially hoping they will “want” it right away.  This is associated with short-term-oriented thinking.

Luckily, it is very easy to convince men to make short-term-oriented decisions.

In almost all animals, there are mechanisms in the brain controlling an individual’s chances of valuing present gains over future gains.  For example when the wings of worker bees wear, or when they get an infectious disease which will lead to death, the bee begins to take on riskier foraging activities (increasing their value of the present over the future).

Margo Wilson and Martin Daly of McMaster University recently did a study to see if “pretty women inspire men to discount the future?” [see Do Pretty Women…], much like how a worker bee with worn wings may discount the future more than a worker bee with healthy wings.

Discounting the future essentially means valuing a current good that you can have right now over future goods (which in many cases may be better).   For example if I offered you a $5000 car today, or told you that if you wait you can get a car in two years worth $300,000, you would probably choose to wait.  But if i said the car two years down the road would only be worth $5500 ($500 more than what you can get today) you would probably take the car today.

As a result of evolution, many hypothesize that men tend to discount the future more than women.  This is because historically they could get a female pregnant and abandon her, without worrying about consequences like child support payments. Essentially they could mate with multiple women, and pass on their genes often (based on short-term-oriented decisions such as sexual attraction).  While women on the other hand generally had to invest more into the process of birth and taking care of their child (making them less prone to short term decisions).   Put another way, if you took a male and female and offered them both $10 now or $100 in a month, the man would be more likely to take the $10 than the woman.

Knowing this, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly hypothesized that if you got men’s brains to perceive a mating opportunity, they would have a higher discount rate (be willing to give up more in the future, to get more now).  To do this they showed men pictures of attractive women and unattractive women.

They found that the men who were shown images of attractive women had a very sharp rise in their discount rate, meaning that they became a lot more short-term-oriented.  This means that men’s purchasing decisions can be influenced by a simple picture of an attractive woman.

If this is hard to understand, think of it this way: If Johnny has $500 in his pocket and sees an attractive female, he can buy some “bling” (expensive jewelry) and impress her, or he can invest it and gain a lot of money in the future. Based on Western sexual stereotypes, it’s likely that Johnny will buy the bling, and hope it will convince the attractive girl to seek sexual intercourse with him.

Knowing this, when creating a marketing campaign directed towards men, you should determine if you are selling a short-term or long-term oriented product/service.  If short term, you may want to include pictures of attractive women in order to make your target males more impulsive and more likely to purchase.  On the other hand if you are selling a long-term oriented product like investments, you will probably want to avoid any pictures of attractive women.

While this information is valuable in formulating marketing campaigns, it is also important to consider when using sex to sell a product is appropriate (if appropriate at all).  Certain organizations rely on sex/attraction to sell their product/service on a regular basis, such as beer companies, video game companies, nightclubs, the fashion industry, and cosmetics providers.  However, recent trends in feminism have seen a push-back against blatant sex-based marketing, and a push for diverse sex-positive campaigns in their place.  It is important to consider these trends, along with your target market, the political environment, and the context of your marketing campaign.


Sources Cited / Further Research 

Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future? – Margo Wilson and Martin Daly –

Copyright A Light in the Rain Ltd. 2017