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    Why powerful people dress differently

    enSeptember 25, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Signaling Power and Distinction through Unconventional DressingPeople in power often dress differently to assert their status and challenge the norm, not necessarily due to financial means.

      Powerful people, like Lady Gaga, often dress differently not to stand out, but to assert their status. This phenomenon, explained by behavioral scientist Richard Shotten, is not always driven by the ability to afford designer clothes. Instead, it's linked to the psychology of signaling power and distinction. This concept, known as the "red sneakers effect," can be observed in various contexts, including the business world. For instance, billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, who dress casually, are making a deliberate choice to signal their power and nonconformity. This idea is further explored in the books "Rebel Ideas" by Matthew Syed and "Rebel Talent" by Francesca Gino. These works delve into the importance of challenging the status quo and embracing individuality as keys to success and innovation.

    • Breaking conventions and dressing unconventionallyBreaking social norms, like dressing unconventionally, can signal higher status and competence due to the assumption that individuals who can afford to do so have a certain degree of power or social capital.

      Breaking conventions, even something as simple as dressing unconventionally, can be perceived as a sign of higher status and increased competence. This idea, known as the "red sneakers effect," was explored in research by Francesca Gino. In her studies, she found that successful academics, who often dress unconventionally, were perceived as more competent and respected than their conventionally dressed peers. In a follow-up study, participants rated the competence and status of a professor described as either conforming or nonconforming, with the nonconforming professor being perceived as more competent and respected. This effect is likely due to the assumption that individuals who can afford to break social conventions must have a certain degree of social capital or power. So, if you want to project a higher status or competence, consider breaking the occasional convention in a calculated and appropriate way.

    • Breaking Fashion Conventions: Defy Expectations for Higher StatusIntentional non-conformity to fashion norms can increase perceived status and competence. Identify and challenge traditions rather than essentials for maximum impact.

      Breaking fashion conventions intentionally can significantly boost your perceived status and competence. This concept is demonstrated by various examples, such as Mark Zuckerberg's Adidas sandals, Steve Jobs' turtleneck, and Lady Gaga's meat dress. However, it's essential to understand that this doesn't always mean dressing down. Instead, it's the act of defying expectations that leads to the status boost. For instance, in an ad agency where everyone dresses casually, showing up in a full suit and bow tie would be an effective way to break conventions. In situations where people are expected to dress formally, dressing down might have the desired effect. However, it's crucial to ensure that the non-conformity is intentional, as unintentional deviations from the norm can have the opposite effect. This concept, known as the "red sneakers effect," was further explored in a study by Gina Gino, who found that a man wearing a red bow tie deliberately was perceived as having a higher status than one wearing a black bow tie. Therefore, to make the red sneakers effect work, one must identify and intentionally break conventions in their category that are merely tradition, rather than essential. Brands can also benefit from this insight by carefully considering which category conventions to adhere to and which to challenge, as breaking the latter can project a higher sense of status.

    • Breaking conventions can make brands stand outUnconventional approaches like a dominatrix sales trainer, drunk UX tester, vegan bacon ad, and Lady Gaga's raw meat outfit grabbed attention and improved brand status. HubSpot's new service hub offers an AI-powered help desk, chatbot, and customer success workspace to break marketing and customer service conventions.

      Breaking conventions can significantly improve your brand's status and grab attention. This was exemplified by a sales trainer who positioned herself as a dominatrix, a drunk UX tester, and a vegan bacon brand that took out a public ad during a lawsuit. These unconventional approaches made these brands stand out and appear more competent and confident. Lady Gaga also benefited from this effect by wearing raw meat on stage. However, being personal with customers and providing excellent service is crucial, especially in today's business environment. HubSpot's new service hub can help businesses achieve this by offering an AI-powered help desk, chatbot, and customer success workspace. By breaking the convention of traditional marketing and customer service, businesses can create a memorable and effective brand. The researchers Vani Pariadaff and David Eagleman also conducted experiments that provide evidence for the benefits of standing out and being distinct.

    • The Power of DistinctivenessDistinctive visuals can significantly increase impact and effectiveness, as shown in studies on safety signs and marketing. For example, a banana peel-designed safety cone slowed down participants 22 times more effectively than a standard cone, while a unique beer bottle design led to a 5% improvement in perception.

      Standing out from the crowd can significantly increase the impact and effectiveness of an image or product. A study conducted in 2007 demonstrated this phenomenon, known as the "red sneaker effect," by showing participants mundane and distinct images and found that the distinct image was perceived to have been shown for longer than it actually was. This effect can be applied to various contexts, including marketing and safety signs. For instance, a study of 246 people found that a banana peel-designed safety cone was 22 times more effective at slowing people down and reducing falls than a standard safety cone. In marketing, a study conducted with two beer brands showed that the brand with a distinctive bottle design was preferred and ranked higher by participants, leading to a 5% improvement in perception. Richard, who conducted the study, argues that even better results could be achieved by targeting specific audiences or using more personalized approaches to make the brand stand out. Overall, the red sneaker effect highlights the importance of creating memorable and distinct visuals to capture people's attention and make a lasting impression.

    • The Power of Familiarity: The Red Sneakers EffectThe red sneakers effect is strongest among those deeply familiar with a brand or category, and unconventional choices can boost appeal among insiders.

      The "red sneakers effect" is most powerful among those who are deeply familiar with a brand or category. This was demonstrated in a study where shoppers wearing gym clothes were rated as having higher status by salespeople working in luxury boutiques, compared to those wearing fur coats. However, this effect was not observed among the general public who were less familiar with luxury boutiques. This insight can explain why unconventional choices, such as Lady Gaga's flesh dress or Zuckerberg's sandals, can boost appeal among insiders, while leaving others puzzled. Brands that challenge conventions, like uniquely styled beers or vegan bacon, can also benefit from this effect. It's important for marketers to understand that the red sneakers effect varies depending on the audience's familiarity with the brand or category. This knowledge can help guide marketing strategies and messaging to maximize impact. Additionally, in this episode of Nudge, we bid farewell to Richard Shotton as a series regular. However, there is a bonus episode featuring an extended conversation with him, where he shares insights on using behavioral science in advertising, taking risks in advertising, and his favorite bias to improve marketing. He also reveals how he memorizes all of these studies. This bonus episode is a must-listen for anyone who has enjoyed Richard's previous appearances on the show.

    • Subscribe to newsletter for bonus episodeListeners can access a bonus episode by subscribing to the host's newsletter, providing exclusive content and the host's personal email address.

      That to access an exclusive bonus episode, listeners need to subscribe to the host's newsletter using the link provided in the show notes. This applies to both new and existing subscribers. Once subscribed, listeners will receive the bonus episode and the host's personal email address. Unsubscribing from the newsletter won't affect access to the bonus episode. The host, Phil Agnew, encourages listeners to check out the guest, Richard's, book, "The Illusion of Choice," which is linked in the show notes. Phil also thanks Richard for being a wonderful guest and invites listeners to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Don't miss out on the bonus episode – subscribe now using the link in the show notes.

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    ABOUT ROSANN LING

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