Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Does my bum look big in this?

Every time I visit the local shopping mall there is a small group of fit young women who avoid me. It's OK, I'm kind of used to it - an affliction I have lived with since I was a teenager.

The women are promoting a local women's gym - I think it is called Configure Express. At first blush that might seem perfectly logical. The women have a job to do - to entice other women to sign up for the gym. I've noticed that they studiously avoided not just me but other male shoppers too.

But here's the thing. I know lots of women. And in my own way feel I can be at least a little influential. I may not qualify as the kind of uber-connector that Malcolm Gladwell describes in The Tipping Point (like Paul Revere on his ride to Concord, warning the Minute Men of the British advance) but I have a certain charm. Instead of embarrassed avoidance I think it would make sense to smile and say 'Hello - do you know someone who is keen to lose some weight or tone up for summer - maybe someone who is concerned about heart health or reducing the risks of cancer?" - that kind of covers it. "Do they avoid the gym because they are embarrassed to work out with men? Does that sound like someone you know? Most people feel the same way."(I just had to slip in some social proof there). "Yes, let me give you a brochure - better still, do you think it would be OK if I gave them a call and told them we'd met. I can offer them a free consultation with one of our top well being consultants - that would be a thoughtful gift from you - or maybe you'd like to give it to her yourself?"

OK, you see my point. But I wonder if we sometimes forget the power and opportunity of looking past the obvious in marketing and persuasion. All I have done in this case if flipped a scenario from my experience in marketing health products to men. Basically don't bother. Men won't respond to a direct health message - we are utterly invincible and when something goes wrong we tough it out - statistically speaking it is true to say that most simple illnesses will pass of their own accord. Target you message to the women in their lives and let millennia of cultural conditioning come into play.

By the way, when you come home with the gift consultation - be very, very careful…it might be better to let the woman from Configure Express to contact on your behalf.

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