What’s Your “Type?”
We’re all guilty of it. We size people up while we’re waiting in a line, sitting at a table in a restaurant, or passing someone on the highway. We tend to lump people in buckets based on their appearance and our thirty seconds of judgment. We don’t mean to do this, but due to human nature or perhaps past experience, we fall into the trap we usually lay for ourselves to land in. And, until recently, marketing has tended to slant toward “the person who likes this brand may live in this type of neighborhood and drive this type of car” mentality.
The thing is, people and their interests are very complex, and certainly surprising at times, especially when we tend to sort people into boxes. I bet in getting to know people, you would have never guessed that the woman with perfectly manicured nails loves to wield a hammer on weekends or dig in the garden. Or that the guy with full-sleeve tattoos is also the development director of a nonprofit organization. Or the young guy in the Prius who recycles religiously also votes Republican.
Marketers have caught on, and instead of always focusing on the “ideal”, or a stereotype, they’re showcasing a person’s real-ness, their “perfect imperfections”, so to speak, as well as their vast and varying interests. The brand that pioneered this approach of embracing real was Dove, with their Campaign for Real Women, launched in 2004. This new strategy really caught fire with Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video in 2013, in which several women describe themselves to a forensic artist who cannot see his subjects. The same women are then described by strangers whom they met the previous day. The sketches are then compared, conjuring strong reactions when shown to the women who painted themselves in an unflattering light. The campaigns have won numerous awards, including a Top Campaign of the Century by Advertising Age.
Since then, several brands have followed suit, diving deeper into appearance, portraying women and men of varying ages and body types. Whether you love or hate the ads, whether you feel they’re empowering or enabling, at the very least, they get people talking and perhaps coming to a place of more acceptance for taking people as who they are, in all of their complexities. It conjures up that old saying about not judging a book by its cover.
Recently, in a conference call, a client shared the story of a woman who came in several years ago with a piece of costume jewelry she wanted to have repaired. Our client took it without hesitation and the woman was so very grateful, finally opening up to tell him that she had been to several jewelers in the area already who turned her down. She knew the piece wasn’t valuable in material, but to her, it was priceless because it had belonged to a newly deceased family member. The next day, the woman’s husband came in and thanked our client for repairing such a sentimental piece of jewelry for his wife. Since then, he has come in and made purchases to the tune of over half a million dollars. Instead of sizing up the woman and her jewelry and making a snap judgment on what she could afford in the future, this act of consideration really and truly did garner our client a customer for life.
It’s a lesson we can all learn from. You may still be stuck with an outdated image of an ideal customer in your mind who belongs to a country club, drives a BMW, and lives in a sprawling manse in an upscale suburb. You may still be able to find that customer. But more and more, you’ll find that today’s customer can defy convention with their mermaid hair and yoga pants. But if they walked in your door, they still have the potential desire of wanting to connect with you. And maybe buy a Rolex instead of the watch battery you were anticipating. Will you turn them away? Perhaps it’s time to realize the ideal of the past has become a chameleon and people of all “types” can be worthy of your time and brand.