The Nemcova Bikini Effect

31 07 2008

If you’re a woman, new research says the picture at right will make you feel worse about yourself.

But it may also make you love my blog.

An Ad Age article cites a study by business professors at Villanova University and the College of New Jersey, inspired by Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty,” shows that ads featuring thin models made women feel worse about themselves but better about the brands featured.

I’ve decided to call this phenomenon “The Nemcova Bikini Effect”, after the noted Czech market research executive/swimsuit model Petra Nemcova.

On a simplistic level, it’s easy to say that marketers are harnessing self-loathing as a way to drive sales.

I think a more nuanced answer is that it’s in our DNA to seek status and advantage as a means to survival.

Good looks are a ~$160 billion a year global industry, encompassing make up, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health club and diet pills. We want brands that promise to make us look better than we actually do. Some good facts can be found here. (I love linking to a guy whose blog proudly says “Born in Nepal”. The world really is shrinking, and in a good way.)

Some highlights of the study:

  • Women in a sample of 194 college students aged 18-24 expressed more negative feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition after seeing thin models than before.
  • Despite the negative effect on their body image, women preferred ads showing thin models and said they were more likely to buy products featured in those ads than in ones showing “regular-size models.
  • “The really interesting result we’re seeing across multiple studies is that these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it,” said Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova.

Unilever’s Campaign For Real Beauty continues. But, you have to wonder: when the campaign runs out of steam, will they turn to the Nemcova Bikini Effect to turn the business back around?

What would you do?

Blinding Flash Of The Obvious: TV Edition

30 07 2008

Ad Age is usually a poor source of comic material.

But this week they had an article by David Poltrak of CBS Vision that actually made me laugh out loud. I’m sure David is a great guy, but… the following are just not penetrating insights:

  • Purchases start with awareness
  • TV is good at generating awareness
  • The Web is good at providing deeper information
  • The Web is good at converting awareness to action

In other news, water is wet and ice is cold.

In the history of media, there has never been a new medium that killed an old one. Newspapers didn’t kill billboards, radio didn’t kill newspapers, TV didn’t kill radio (or the movie business, as was feared), and the Internet was never, ever, EVER going to kill TV.

Mass Audiences: Blown To Bits

While each individual medium is feverishly trying to prove that their medium is best, we are being distracted from the jugular question of our age.

Mass audiences are being fragmented into a billion ever-tinier pieces. How can we re-aggregate them into something meaningful?

When we put too much focus on search, social media, or mobile or whatever, we are failing to see the audience forest for the digital trees.

It’s not about the media. It’s about the audience.

P.S. A medium that genuinely IS in trouble: newspapers. Unforgivably slower than the internet, less perspective than newsweeklies (which are also in trouble), and their key revenue generators like classifieds are all being picked off by other media.

If all this sounds too heady, I present a more trenchant analysis from Nelson, on The Simpsons.

Cuil Review

28 07 2008

I just tried the brand-spanking-new Cuil search engine founded by highly respected ex-Google employees. Here was my test:

Search query:

Response: “Sorry, an error occurred. Please try your search again. If the problem persists, please be assured that our team is working quickly to resolve the issue.”

Is this a bad search result , or is it actually stunningly accurate?

Bubble Gum Hits (?) of 2008

28 07 2008

When I was a kid, bubblegum pop songs like “Yummy Yummy Yummy”, “Simon Says” and “Green Tambourine” were at the top of the pop charts.

Can chewing gum companies lift sales by embedding old jingles in new songs?

An interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal says Wrigley worked with Translation Advertising (part of Interpublic) to put references to three old ad jingles — at least one dates back to 1960 — in some new rap tunes.

Fascinating. Jingles are viewed by many as among the most dated and derided forms of “old” advertising.

Yet, companies are trying to resurrect them (admittedly in some new way) nearly 50 years later.

Yogi Berra Explains Jazz

28 07 2008

This was passed to me today by my friend Nick DiMinno of Wildvine Music. It doesn’t have anything to do with consumer packaged goods, interactive marketing, social media, SEO, SEM, etc. That’s why it has everything to do with it.

When it’s done right, marketing, like jazz, defies explanation. As Thelonious Monk once said, “The only cats worth anything are the cats who take chances. Sometimes I play things I never heard myself.”

Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?

Yogi: I can’t, but I will.

90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part.

So if you play the wrong part, its right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.

Interviewer: I don’t understand.

Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s what’s so simple about it.

Interviewer: Do you understand it?

Yogi: No. That’s why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn’t know anything about it.

Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?

Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.

Interviewer: What is syncopation?

Yogi: That’s when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don’t hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music.

Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they’re the same as something different from those other kinds.

Interviewer: Now I really don’t understand.

Yogi: I haven’t taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.

UPDATE: On a more serious note, I just read that a group is raising funds to restore John Coltrane’s former home in Dix Hills, Long Island. Trane and his family moved into the house in the summer of 1964, and it’s where he was inspired to create his most famous work, A Love Supreme.

This is hallowed ground for jazz fans. You can learn more and make donations here.

P&G’s Social Media Lab

25 07 2008

Twitter is an unforgivable waste of time. At least, it would be if I didn’t learn about a dozen interesting things there every day. 

Today’s learning: one of the hundreds of people I follow mentioned that P&G has a social media lab. It turns out that Deborah Schultz has been working there for 8 months. To find out more about what she’s been up to, go check out her blog

I’m impressed with P&G. Their dedication to understanding consumers and media is pretty damned inspiring.

We should all do our homework this thoroughly.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

Is There A Phrenologist In The House?

25 07 2008

Around 1800, a German physician named Franz Joseph Gall developed a “science” called Phrenology.

Crazy old Franz felt you could positively identify a person’s personality traits by “reading” the crevices and lumps and bumps on their skulls. (Today, Franz would be working in the web analytics business. But, I digress.)

The point of all this is that marketers ping-pong between believing in magic and believing in science.

We love magic. We’ve found the transcendent creative idea! We’ve tapped into a deep emotional reservoir! Everyone’s falling in love with our brand!

But by definition, magic is rare and special. It’s not an everyday thing. What do we do if we need to make our numbers every day?

That’s why we love science. The brilliant analysis! The hiddden data! That moment when we learn that not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, it’s coming from a rainbow and a gigantic pot of gold!

But that too is a rare occurrance. If we’re honest, most of the time it’s just a jumble of confusing numbers. Data, data everywhere, but not an idea to think.

Paul Barsch has sparked a good conversation about this over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix. No matter which side you favor — science or emotion — you’ll find something interesting to think about.

More good reads:

As for me? I believe in balance but if I had to choose, I believe more in magic than in science. Data can tell us a lot, but it can’t tell us everything. In the end — for better and for worse, we’re humans, not computers. I’ll bet the Zune had far more market research than the iPhone, and look at their results.

In its own way, science is as seductive as magic. We love the illusion that if we had all the data, we’d have all the answers.

Phrenology was a science once, too. Until we learned that the bumps on our heads we were feeling were the result of banging our heads against the wall.