There used to be just one barber shop in my neighborhood. The sort of place where you don’t make an appointment. You just show up, saunter in, the barber acknowledges your presence with the slightest raise of the eyebrows, hands not missing a beat as he keeps scissoring the incumbent customer’s hair. You sit in the waiting area flicking through those men’s health mags that I suspect only barbers buy, and then when it’s your turn there is no consultation, rather a mutual acceptance that there is only one hair cut for you. As he cuts your hair he asks you questions about the weekend’s fight and you inanely offer opinions on boxing, a sport that you have no interest in at all.
Suddenly my neighbourhood is full of barbers. And they’re doing beard trims at a rate of a dozen a day, totally eclipsing the pre-hipster era where one a month was a good run rate. And there is no-longer just one haircut, instead there are now 20 variations of… err… one haircut. And all these barbershops seem to be competing on who can do the best tattoo-biker-voodoo vibe.
So I decide to try a new barber. A woman greets me at the door. Which, frankly is just weird. It kind of makes me want to ask about the prices, but that is not something you ever do at a barbershop. Once I’ve crossed that candy striped threshold, well I’m paying whatever they see fit.
I’m the only customer. There are two seats. Both empty. Two expectant looking barbers. “Do you want Tony or Anthony today?” asks the greeter. I’m immediately thinking about the discussion that surely must have occurred at some stage about who was going to be “Tony”. I look from barber to barber. They’re both looking back at me with this awkward anticipation. They both have nearly identical neck tattoos. I have this weird sense that I no longer understand the world of haircuts.
One thing I can see clearly is that Tony has a great haircut, while Anthony has a terrible haircut.
I have to make a split second decision. Who do I chose?
Let’s divide the world into two groups. Punters. And. Marketers. Put into this barbershop situation most Punters will chose Tony. Because he has a great haircut, and you want a great haircut too. But this is also because as a punter you are the subject of marketing. Tony’s great haircut is all the marketing you need. Punters are focused on outcomes. The outcome of a visit to the barber is a haircut. Preferably a great one. Like Tony’s.
If you are a marketer though, well, you should be focused on process, not just outcomes.
So let’s think about the underlying process going on with our two barbers. Tony has a great haircut, Anthony has a shitty haircut. There are only two barbers in this shop. So, who cuts Tony’s hair? Anthony. Who cuts Anthony’s hair? Tony. Marketers, choose Anthony.
What’s the point of this lengthy parable? If it’s the outcome that’s most important well you go for what looks most slick. If it’s the process that’s most important you’re much more likely to look for the underlying effectiveness. When it comes to marketing, scientific thinking always trumps personal preference.