Using Photos of Men and Women in Marketing

This is a really difficult blog post for me to write.

First of all, because I have to admit that I might have been wrong about something. And second, because with a blog title like this one, I risk offending some people, and losing some readers. Especially female readers. Which is not as sexist a comment as it may seem, and, in fact, might be a key point of the whole post.

Confused? Sorry. I’ll explain.

I recently published a blog post in which I claimed that despite banks’ branding efforts, that “rates matter (a lot).” While I might have been right about the relative ineffectiveness of branding efforts, I might have overstated the impact of rates.

The Neuromarketing blog points us to a research report based on a marketing test conducted by a South African bank. According to the study:

A South African lender sent letters offering incumbent clients large, short­ term loans at randomly chosen interest rates (which ranged from 3.25% to 11.75% per month). The letters also contained independently randomized psychological “features” that were motivated by specific types of frames and cues shown to be powerful in the lab, but which, from a normative perspective, ought to have no impact.”

What were those “psychological features”? They included the description of the offer, promotional giveaways, comparisons to competitor rates, and the presence (or absence) of a photo of a person. These photos varied between various combinations of race and gender.

What did the bank find? According to the report:

For the male customers, replacing the photo of a male with a photo of a female on the offer letter statistically significantly increases take-up; the effect is about as much as dropping the interest 4.5 percentage points. For female customers, we find no statistically significant patterns.”

So maybe I was wrong — maybe rate doesn’t matter. If you’re marketing to men, and use pictures of women in your marketing material, that is.

Anyway, I figure if the quality of the offering doesn’t matter as much as having photos of women, then I don’t have to worry about writing high quality blog posts as long as I include pictures of women.

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