According to two new surveys, young men attending college have crept ahead of their female counterparts in spending on primping and priming products.

This year marks the largest launch of new personal care products targeted to men - ever. From Axe Twist "the fragrance that changes to keep guys interesting to girls" to Dove's Men+Care with "micromoisture technology" and Andy Pettitte's endorsement, men have never had more options. Axe promises hair that inspires girl variety "action" while Gillette offers a super smooth shave because, women don't like a man that's "long, hard and stiff," wink, wink.

Using irony, humor, athletes and techno claims, marketers appear to be hitting it out of the park. The most successful brands have taken the age old theme of a magic girl lure potion and updated it with an edge. It works. Old Spice commercials and videos featuring "the man your man could smell like" have been viewed over 120 million times on YouTube and sales have increased 107% in the past month.

What's behind this stunning surge of interest that men have in body washes, hair products, shaving products and skincare regimes?

Obviously an onslaught of new men's products and pitch-perfect promotional campaigns have stimulated interest. But even the most ingenious marketing efforts fall flat if they're not addressing a need. And since men's bodies have always sprouted beards, gotten bed head and sweated, those new needs are clearly more psychological and social than physical.

Beefy sales of body products may speak to a society that's increasingly obsessed with appearances. Young men are motivated as never before to bolster their confidence and buck up their appeal with products. Meanwhile, as gender roles shift and expand, the definition of a man is cloudier, less certain and perhaps more open to definition from marketers.

While these new needs may speak to challenging societal shifts, a lot of moms and girlfriends are also breathing a sigh of relief (and more deeply now).

Sources: 2010 Alloy College Explorer Study; 2010 National Retail Federation Back-to-College Survey; Brandweek

The Why Behind the Buy

Understanding consumerism and why we buy
Kit Yarrow

Kit Yarrow is a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

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