January 09, 2011

Beauty (And The Beastly Tweet)

One of the hazards of being a brand-watcher in a world of Google alerts is that I know much more than I care to of the antics of a certain Russell Brand. But sometimes this walking, (never stops) talking, living brand has something to offer brand-builders by way of a cautionary lesson.

My daily updates this week have been a-twitter with Brand's latest exploit which reportedly has wife Katy on the warpath. Apparently, her thoughtful husband snapped a not-so-flattering picture of Katy as she awoke and posted it to Twitter for his 1 million-plus followers to enjoy. Katy, unsurprisingly, was less than pleased to be pictured without her customary war-paint, and although Russell promptly deleted the picture from his account, the damage was done as celebrity watchers and news organisations around the world gleefully published the image through other channels.

Now, poor Katy looks no worse than any of us caught unawares first thing in the morning, but of course that's not the point. More than most of us, Katy relies heavily on presenting a gilded image to the world, and it hardly helps her cause to be seen looking less than glamorous, whatever the circumstances.

As it happens, I've been doing a lot of work of late with clients who help their customers to make a strong impression on the world, whether through fitness, dress or design, and we've had a number of discussions on the merits of 'before and after' shots to demonstrate the impact they've had on the face their customers present to the world.

Whilst there's no doubting the power of 'before and after' to illustrate cause and effect, I've got very strong concerns about using 'before' shots of customers, which have been borne out by what's happened to poor Katy Brand. It always seems to me to be patronising to talk of our customers as though we brought them down drooling from the mountains, and shaved, scrubbed and suited them, before showing them off to the world, Eliza Doolittle to our Professor Henry Higgins.

It's evident from the glee which greeted Katy's picture that this brutal 'before' shot only feeds the popular tendency to make mortals of our gods. When we're in the business of helping customers to reinvent themselves in some way, it really doesn't help to show them first in an unflattering light. Of course, we want to demonstrate the impact we've had on them, but much better to find a way that illustrates how we helped bring out the best in them, rather than suggest we've cured them of the ailment of being themselves.

As for poor Katy, I've chosen to use a picture of her looking her best to illustrate this post. The more prurient amongst you might prefer the dreaded 'before' shot, but somehow I don't care to add to the thoughtlessness of this particular Brand.