19 February 2021

Selling Beards

Welcome back. At least a month before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, I started growing a beard. I know it preceded the lockdown, because several of the regulars at the weekly coffee klatch (see post, Saturday Coffee Hour) cornered me and asked why I was growing a beard.

I wasn’t sure what they really wanted to know or why, but I answered that I hadn’t had a beard since I was a grad student in the 1960s. I didn’t bother mentioning that the beard made me look like a goat back then.

Warren starting his grad-student
beard. Yes, it’s blurry (it’s the 1960s),
and he’s smoking a cigarette.

I don’t let my beard grow long enough now to see if I’ve passed the goat stage, but even my stubble is easily overlooked given its shade of gray and white.

That would probably reduce my success as a salesman. At least that’s what researchers affiliated with St. Edward’s University in Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio found.

Testing Beards
Earlier research on beards has failed to support any consistent increase in perceived male attractiveness, though studies have observed that beards serve as an indicator of masculinity, maturity, resources, competence, leadership and status.

The recent study focused on how males with beards are perceived in a sales or service-specific context. Toward that end the researchers conducted a series of experiments to test the power of a beard versus other or no facial hair.

As an example, one online experiment compared the effectiveness of bearded and clean-shaven salesman ads on Facebook Ad Manager. Ad effectiveness was measured by click-through rate, the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view the ad. Clicking on the ad places the user into the sales pipeline.

The advertisement with the bearded salesman yielded a click-through rate of 2.66% compared to industry averages of about 0.71% for industrial services and 1.04% for technology.

Wrap Up
Overall, the researchers found that regardless of the salesperson's race or ethnicity, age, attractiveness or likability, potential buyers viewed bearded sales personnel as having greater expertise and trustworthiness than their clean-shaven, stubbled and mustached counterparts. The perception of greater expertise and trustworthiness held across sales industries and was associated with a greater likelihood of buyers’ purchase.

Oh, had my father only known about beards when he owned a retail store (e.g., see post Gone Fishing). Thanks for stopping by.

Study of perception of bearded salesmen in Jour. of Business Research: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0148296320307840
Article on study on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/seu-seu121520.php
Example of study of beards and attractiveness in Behavioral Ecology: academic.oup.com/beheco/article/23/3/481/221987