Size Really Does Matter - Hampshire Workspace

7 October 2013
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Figleaf Photo H ZellI know you thought the headline was just a way of attracting your attention and then I would talk about the way only the biggest shops are going to survive on the high street or how Amazon is taking over online retailing. But no, this really is about how women prefer larger men.

An Australian survey reported in New Scientist has revealed that when confronted with a number of male mannequins of various heights and musculature, the ones women described as the most attractive were above average in the way of male endowment.

Female or male, we know in our heads that it would be very shallow to choose a physical feature over personality in any long term relationship. Usually other factors such as a good sense of humour or a large wad of money will have more impact than a large package. Nevertheless there are occasions when a relationship in depth is not what’s required. I now realise that those male ballet dancers at The Mayflower, who used to stuff a handkerchief down their tights, weren’t as silly as they seemed. They were simply striving for the same emotional, straight-between-the-thighs response as to the early Elvis when he put a piece of rubber pipe inside his trousers.

So why does this survey matter to those of us trying to sell something? The answer is that in questionnaires our customers will write what they think they should say but we need to judge them by their deeds not their words. Starting way back with Masters and Johnson’s research (now the subject of a TV drama series startignt his week), questionnaires have shown most women saying size isn’t important and yet it would appear that was their brains talking. Meanwhile their bodies were taking a different view. Just like customers might say they want healthy food but actually buy cream cakes.

In the same vein, some recent research published by Daniel Bergner in his book What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire suggests that when women say they expect to be wooed, it’s purely social conditioning. When behaving ‘naturally’, females are at least as likely a men to do the chasing. This is confirmed by some research by the University of Michigan that showed women as active in their pursuit of sex as men, when they were put in a situation where there would be no social stigma.

Moving away from sex, I see Netflix discovered something along the same lines. When their customers ordered DVDs by post to watch in the future, they were more inclined to ask for arty films that they felt they ought to see, whereas when they are slumped on the sofa ready to watch a streamed movie there and then, they are more likely to go for undemanding thrills, laughs or romance.

So, in business as in life, we need to understand what people really want before we can satisfy them with our offer. An emotional appeal is more likely to sell than a reasoned argument. This is not just saying, sex sells, although it undoubtedly does. (Hence the current Radio Times promoting articles about two new dramas with the huge front page headline Sex In The 60s.) It could just as easily be greed or fear. The point is, as the retailing axiom goes, there are more goods bought by the heart than by the head.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience and online retailer Your Life Your Style, both based at Hampshire Workspace, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.

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