Electrolux hopes book will turn male slobs into household gods

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The Independent Online

Few twenty-something British men aspire to be some kind of domestic god, so they are not easy consumers to reach if you are a maker of kitchen appliances. But they are an important target market, as there are 4 million single male households in this country.

So Electrolux, the Swedish maker of fridges and washing machines, has commissioned a novel in an attempt to put its brand in front of Britain's "kitchen-phobic" domestic slobs. Many of these twenty-something men are moving into their first independent homes and have little knowledge of kitchen appliance brands.

The novel, Men in Aprons, by the writer and journalist Alex Mattis, might be described as "bloke lit". It follows the life of Dan. He is dumped by his girlfriend, Anna, because he is taking her for granted and not pulling his weight around the house. She moves out but Dan's new flat-mate, Jackson, turns out to know how to cook, throw a dinner party and look after his clothes. Dan learns from Jackson and tries to win Anna back with his new household skills.

The storyline contains no product placement or references to Electrolux but the book is marked clearly as the company's creation and at the end of each chapter there are tips on conquering domestic problems, some of which point to Electro- lux products.

Ulrich Gartner, Electrolux's vice-president for communications, who masterminded the project, said: "Gone are the days when a brand could just tell the consumer how great they are. Today people are so independent, you have to earn your right to interact with them. We are using this tool [the book] to try to engage with this group in a fun way."

He said the internet in particular had broadened information channels dramatically, making engaging with consumers much more difficult. The company believes the book may be bought by the men's frustrated girlfriends for them.

Some Electrolux products were designed to appeal to consumers with less interest in domestic matters, Mr Gartner said. For instance, dishwashers with one button, rather than offering a bewildering range of options.

Men in Aprons is available directly from the Electrolux website, in print or on audiotape.

There have been books by more established writers that have also sought to promote particular brands or products. Fay Weldon wrote The Bulgari Connection for the Italian jewellery firm of that name, while Carole Matthews' The Sweetest Taboo markets the Ford Fiesta.

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