Is your marketing "Hot or Not"?

Today’s guest post is by Simon Galbraith. Simon is co-founder and joint CEO of Red Gate Software.

My company, Red Gate Software, has a photo board. When new people start work, someone from HR takes a photo using a digital camera. That photo is eventually replaced by one taken by a professional photographer. The photo board at any one time has mostly professionally taken photos with the recent amateur photos dotted amongst them. To my mind the difference is palpable – people look a LOT more attractive in the professionally taken photos.

This is important for marketing. Photos and images of people are used extensively in marketing and are especially significant in things like blogs, twitter and facebook. The fact that Seth Godin has chosen an iconic, professionally taken, image of himself to accompany his blog isn’t a coincidence.

As I was espousing my professional-photo-attractiveness-is-important-for-marketing theory to a couple of friends who were at my house for New Year, I realised that rather than just spouting off we should do an experiment.

First, some background: like most teenagers, when I was 16 years old I was self-conscious about my appearance. I was convinced that I was the least attractive boy in my class: gangly, crooked-nosed and spotty. One day in math class Mr Ranson conducted an exercise in a statistic module. He lined up all the boys in the class and asked the girls to rank our attractiveness. After standing awkwardly at the front, my worst fears were realised: I was indeed the most unattractive boy in the class. The case for the prosecution was overwhelming, with 12 out of 14 girls supporting the last-place ranking. Mr Ransom then burbled on about different methods of collating ranking but, unusually for me, I wasn’t taking it in. I was absorbing a more painful lesson about the shape of the probability density function of my getting a date within the next millennium.

You can imagine how this might have left me unwilling to subject myself to another public vote on my attractiveness. But the occasion, my theory and the wine led me to shed a few inhibitions and have a go with myself as the guinea pig.

So I’ve created two new characters for the dating website HotorNot, which asks visitors to rate the attractiveness of people on a scale of 1 to 10:

First, meet Jeremy Pemberton, a 36-year-old man based in Cambridge, England:

Jeremy Pemberton

This is a cropping of a photograph taken by professional photographer Chris Bouchier.

Secondly, meet Aden Pemberton, a 36-year-old man based in Cambridge, England.

Aden Pemberton

This photograph was taken by my wife using a cheap point-and-shoot digital camera after we’d drunk a couple of glasses of home-made mulled wine.

Both photos are of the same person taken in the same house within 4 weeks of each other. After looking at the photos we came up with the following guesses at how they would be rated on average by the visitors to HotorNot:

  Amateur photo Professional photo
Dave 6.8 8.5
Pete 6 9
Pam* 3 5
Simon 5 7

*This is my wife of 10 years; she feels she can be brutally frank with me without hurting my feelings**

**Which just goes to show that deep knowledge of someone only goes so far.

By the way, both Pam and Pete work in marketing; multinationals like Philip Morris and Proctor and Gamble pay their organisations a king’s ransom for their insights.

I’m going tell you what happened and what my conclusions are in a second blog post. But for now, it would be fun if you could comment with your prediction of the scores. Don’t worry, my feelings can’t possibly be hurt anymore…I think.

8 responses to “Is your marketing "Hot or Not"?”

  1. Jake says:

    a 9?? Looks like Pete has the hots for this “36” year old!
    Unfortunately it’s not a fair test, the books behind the first photo make him look more intelligent and therefore richer and hotter. The second photo makes him look like he’s modelling stripy-shirts!

  2. Jake,
    Don’t forget that Pete has to face me after he has made his judgment, it is pretty natural to up the scores to avoid having to insult my appearance. However on HotorNot people aren’t constrained by concerns for the persons feelings since it is all anonymous. This should be a truer guide to the impact of a photo in a marketing setting where you just react to it naturally. Had I passed the photos around a group of friends I might just be measuring how prepared they are to hurt my feelings.

  3. billy bosworth says:

    Simon, that is hilarious and informative! It’s about the inner beauty, bro… the inner beauty! (Or at least that’s what guys like us tell ourselves, right???) I’ve always said I’ve got a face only a football helmet could love!
    More to the point, I’ve noticed this over this over the years in the food and fitness industry more than anywhere else. Somehow that Big Mac just doesn’t look quite the same when I unwrap it as it did on the menu! And on the fitness front, the before/after pictures are hysterical. Before: No tan, no smile, slumped posture, jacked up hair. After: Tan, shaved body hair (for a dude, anyway), nice posture, big smile, hair all nice and made up.
    Funny stuff, but obviously it works! Great post. Hope all is well with you.

  4. Andy Brice says:

    Mr Ranson – what a bastard! Reminds me of the music teacher who decided to prove I was tone deaf by making me sing notes in front of the whole class.
    If you want some additional data points you could try classy East Anglian ‘hot or not’ clone:

  5. Dan says:

    I would suggest putting a third picture up for a true sampling- black & white, a little closer shot of the head with a more thought provoking shy smile, and maybe a mock turtleneck. The turtleneck and smile will make you look a little more worldly. I would wager that would get the best score. People always look better in black & white.

  6. William Brewer says:

    Ridiculous. Nobody is going to take any blog seriously that is written by Aden Pemberton. His brother Jeremy looks a fine fellow.

  7. For me both the photos are equal except the smile and that is the only thing which make the difference.