Insight, Part 2: Do blondes have more fun?

In Part 1 of this musing, I mentioned the following data points (c/o the Harvard Business Review):

  • Blondes earn 7% more than brunettes
  • Husbands of blonde women earn an average of 6% more than the husbands of women with other hair colors

That said, in this case, synthesizing a sound insight is not as straightforward as it was in the case of Sedaris’ observed correlation between marshmallows and faith in god.

Firstly, there is the subject matter: even when asked under testing conditions, people are prone to over-report their income, and minimize the extent to which personal insecurities affect their choices about their appearance.

Secondly, to synthesize an insight, say, for a women’s beauty product, we’d also have to determine whether or not non-blonde women are propensed to change the color of their hair for financial gain or materialistic matrimony.

Thirdly, we’d probably want to survey employers as well, none of whom would admit to appearance playing a part in salary level – and most of whom would not even be conscious of this phenomenon if it proved to exist.

There are ways to adjust for all of this so that accurate data is captured during testing. However the accuracy of the data will not help to avoid the next pitfall in our beauty campaign scenario: What to do if a strong correlation between a woman’s desire to be blond and her desire for money proves to exist?

While “blonds have more money and more fun” may be a sound insight, it is also be rather a brash message for a beauty product. Or is it?

The beauty industry relies heavily on celebrity endorsement in their advertising, the implication being that a portion of a celebrity’s success is attributable to the way a product makes him or her look. More “established” celebrities, who tend to be older than “rising star” celebrities, are preferred, the subtext being “I got to where I am today with the help of the products that made be beautiful.” To paraphrase, “I’m rich because of the way I look, and you can be as well.” Or as Kelly LeBrock said on behalf of Pantene, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

“Blonds have more money and more fun” would make for a ruthless tagline, but, it the case at hand, it is both a valid insight and a message which advertisers have successfully conveyed in subtle – and at times not so subtle ways.

In the end, one should never fear synthesizing an unflattering insight; affective creative can take the harshest of truths about human nature and deliver them in a ways that make us feel confident, optimistic and, yes, even beautiful.