Beautiful people earn more. Do beautiful brands?

by Alex Benady

Academic studies suggest that beautiful people earn between 10 and 20 per cent more than people with just average looks -even though there is absolutely no difference in their working performance. Could the same be true of brands?

The reverse is certainly true of what you might call ugly people, according to Lucy Kellaway writing in the Financial Times. Discussing the (comparatively) new field of biological economics which studies the relationship between human biology and economics, she reported research by New York University which found that a one per cent increase in body mass results in a 0.6% fall in income.

In his 2012 book ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful’ Daniel S. Hamermesh suggests beautiful people tend to do better than their aesthetically-challenged counterparts. He explores whether a universal standard of beauty exists.He  illustrates how attractive workers make more money, how these amounts differ by gender, and how looks are valued differently based on profession.

Other findings include the fact that US chief executives with deeper voices tend to run larger companies, get paid more and last longer in the job; the finding that bearded men are trusted more, that Fortune 500 CEOs are on average 2 and a half inches taller than the average man, that blonde women earn seven per cent more than brunettes and CEOs with more ‘powerful faces’ tend to run more powerful companies.

You might wonder how this is relevant to brand design? The answer is that like behavioural economics, biological economics is further proof that the rational, predictable model of ‘homo economicus’ that underpins much of conventional economic and consumer theory, is woefully incomplete.

If even chief execs of the world’s largest companies are being bought at least in part on the basis of their looks, not on conscious but on instinctive measures, then why would the same not be true for lesser purchases –such as baked beans, yoghurts and soap powders?

Behavioural and biological economics reveal that people make decisions based not on a full assessment of the all the facts, but on rules of thumb that they aren’t even aware of. It’s clear that the human brain considers the surface a reliable indicator of what is going on beneath the surface.

That’s true of people, packaging, strategies, ideas and relationships.

Hence the power of beauty. At the risk of sounding pretentious, you could say that beauty is an outer sign of inner grace. Which is why we believe that beauty is a serious commercial issue.

Put bluntly, if beautiful people can earn 20% more than the average, wont the same be true of brands?


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