KFC launched its new Double Down burger this week to widespread media attention. Which is unsurprising really, because the US-invented bun-less burger is a beauty. Bacon, sauce and two slices of cheese between two pieces of deep-fried chicken — you could clog your arteries just by looking at it. Health experts have lined up to pillory it for encouraging irresponsible eating.

But according to KFC’s marketing team, the lard-laced heart stopper is one of the “manliest” around. In a breathtaking Double Down press release celebrating the launch of a “Month of ManTime”, Kentucky Fried mentioned the words “man” or “men” 39 times. According to KFC’s “research”, 91% of Australian males look forward to ManTime but can’t get enough because they are stuck in relationships or marriages:

“Even more interestingly, ‘bromance’ is alive and well in Australia with one in five men saying they’d rather have ManTime than sex!”

On their Facebook page, KFC are giving blokes the opportunity to win “man stuff”. All you have to do is upload a shot of you and your mates scoffing a Double Down and you’re in with a shot of taking home such goodies as a pair of night vision goggles, a table tennis set and a subscription to Zoo Magazine.

It’s not the first time masculinity has been used to sell junk food. Hungry Jacks in the past have urged burger fans to “grab hold” of the Whopper with both hands. A current ad for the burger joint says its Angry Angus burger will “feed the beast inside you” with a flavour that’s “so big it’s dangerous.” Eat an Angry Angus and you’ll need to take that beast to the gym. The Single runs in at 2626kJ and 39.7g of fat, while the Ultimate Double Angus weighs in at 3532kj and 57.2g of fat.

Four’N Twenty pies have been running this line for years. One memorable ad featured two manly tradies eating pies in a truck as two more feminine-looking men ate in a restaurant. A recent ad also says blokes should order the ‘Magic Salad Plate’ to pretend they are eating green stuff as they scoff their gravy-filled pastry. Apparently all it takes is a bit of green stuff to get the girls.

Energy drinks are a particularly bad offender. Coca-Cola’s Mother is currently running advertisements where blokes can visit the Motherland — “a monument to man’s ability to build things bigger and more explosive than they need to be”.

Mother’s caffeine-fulled competitor Monster are also in on the blokey act. On their website, punters can ogle at pictures of the ‘Monster Girls’, while checking out videos of Monster-sponsored sports teams which compete in activities like skateboarding, motorcross and motor racing. Both drinks have more than 50g of sugar and tread the maximum caffeine line of 160mg per 500mL can.

Soft drinks are also for blokes it seems, but only when there is no connotation with femininity. Pepsi Max for years have told men that their drink will let you “live life to the max”, while Solo claim to be the “original thirst crusher”. Solo in fact went a step further in one recent advertisement, Schweppes claimed that “slamming down” the lemon-flavored lolly water would help gents get rid of their “man cans”,  which represent weakness or a lack of masculinity.

Coke Zero seems to have been introduced as a male counterpoint to the aimed-at-women Diet Coke. In a current customer competition that reinforces this idea, Zero quaffers can go into the draw to win a brand new Weber barbie (while Diet drinkers have the chance to take home a diamond ring).

Flavoured milk is also a male-dominated battleground, Farmers Union Ice Coffee has been running a campaign that urges drinkers to “Harden the FUIC up”, while a current ad for Oak Milk fronted by an aggressive spruiker claims that the dairy product will “kill hungrythirsty dead”.

The marketing ploy is also aimed at kids. For years Nutri-Grain have played on the masculinity angle to sell their brand of sugary cereal to mums through the “Iron Man Food” slogan. Ice-creams are also in on the act. A current campaign for the new “jawsome” MaxiBon ice-cream “man-wich” says it turns “lickers into biters”. Strong masculine jaws are a must to tuck into this sugary treat seems to be the message.

Chocolate bars are also prime offenders. A recent spot for Nestle’s Chokito bar urges blokes to say “no no no” to such things as using relationship pet names in front of mates or letting girlfriends have a bite of your chocolate bar.

Snickers are also pretty blatant with this. A popular worldwide ad which launched during last year’s Super bowl had a group of friends lambasting a football player because he was “playing like Betty White”. Magically he transforms back into a regular bloke after one bite of a Snickers.

Not to be outdone, Cadbury have also got in on the blokey action. In a whole slew of ads for its Boost bar, a chocolate bar is anthropomorphised into a smooth and masculine hit with the ladies.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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