‘The Beard Test’ | How Beard Length Affects Click-Through Rate

betabrand beard test header

In Betabrand’s never-ending quest to understand the Internet consumer, we wondered,  what’s the optimal beard style for male models?

Do shoppers prefer gentlemen to be shaven, unshaven, or barbarically-bearded?   Surely the answer would lie in click data.

So we shot a shirt on Jared Graf, our Co-Founder and Design Director — a Pennsylvanian who sports a centimeter of neatly-groomed facial hair.

Then, through the magic of Photoshop, we added and/or subtracted varying quantities of strawberry blonde scruff.

Betabrand Beard Test spectrum

The testing principles were fairly straightforward— present six different beard styles on precisely the same advertisement — with the same targets, same timing, etc. — then compare Click-Through Rate (CTR) data to determine the most alluring facial hair.

The Woodies Raglan Shirt ad, featuring Jared in his natural, un-doctored state:

Betabrand Beard test normal length beard for ad

 The Click-Through Data:

betabrand beard test click through rate

Analysis (Includes some shocking news for Mr. Graf):

Both men and women, on average, were 39% more likely to click an image that had any amount of facial hair vs. an image that showed none.

As for the most heavily clicked, the longest beard we tested (beard #6) was unilaterally the favorite. CTR’s were 79% higher on this beard vs. the average of the others.

betabrand beard test long beard

The test also demonstrated that women have about a 30% lower affinity toward beards than men do, with one exception: the image of completely beardless Jared (beard #3).  Sure, these were male-focused ads, but it is also a safe assumption that men generally feel more positive about beards than women.

As for no-facial hair (beard #1), women were 65% less likely than men to click this beard. It was the second-lowest performing image for women, while it performed just above average for men.

betabrand beard results

Our core insight here is that if your ads feature men, they should be sporting some facial at all times. However, more “conventional” beards should be avoided, while extremely long beards are encouraged.  A handlebar (beard #4) will likely go over well also, while a mustache is pretty much a par for the course.

Finally, Jared needs to change his facial hair. His natural style rated terribly with both men and women. Going into this test, we had no idea it would cause facial fashion panic in our Design Director. He was last seen chugging a bottle of Beamon’s Beard Enhancing Elixir…

Julian Scharman

Julian Scharman

Head of Customer Acquisition & Traffic at Betabrand
Julian's focus is on finding the most innovative ways to attract new customers. He has worked at leading San Francisco advertising & media agencies designing multi-channel communication campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. Around here, we just call him Supreme.
Julian Scharman

Julian's focus is on finding the most innovative ways to attract new customers. He has worked at leading San Francisco advertising & media agencies designing multi-channel communication campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. Around here, we just call him Supreme.

24 Comments

  1. AHMAD · June 26, 2014 Reply

    It’s so Crezy Man , thanks for information

  2. Kelly Stonelake · June 27, 2014 Reply

    Very interesting! I’d love to know which beard drove highest conversions?

    • Julian Scharman · June 27, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for reading Kelly. Unfortunately in order to report on which images were more effective at driving conversions, we would have to reach a level of statistical significance that would require thousands more in media spend to achieve. I believe (rather firmly) that CTR remains one of the best, early indicators of interest. In the social ads, and this is particularly true on Facebook, because the units are so large, and in-stream, you can garner clicks quickly, and more reliably.

  3. MD · June 27, 2014 Reply

    The analysis doesn’t take into account (or the article fails to mention it) where the shoppers are coming from. I’m confident the results would change considerably according to the country. In a muslim country where beard is mandatory results might be very different from results in China where men rarely have facial hair.

    • Julian Scharman · June 27, 2014 Reply

      MD, thanks for reading. This test was targeting US users of Facebook only, but your perspective on Geos is spot-on. No doubt if this test was conducted in more countries outside the US, that cultural signals would play heavily on how people interact with our advertising.

      I think this is something brands & marketers often fail to respect when entering new, global markets outside their own. Companies like CloudSpeak have made a business of solving that problem, check ’em out.

  4. Roger · June 27, 2014 Reply

    All praise the beard.

  5. James · June 27, 2014 Reply

    Based on these results… shouldn’t the next step be to test longer and longer beards, until the CTR starts to fall?

    • Julian Scharman · June 27, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for the comment, James. Funny you mention this. We actually had (and continue to have) on hand, several more images of longer beards than just “beard #6”. My apprehension was that they began to look so silly, that their silliness might have ended up muddy-ing the results of the test. As you can see, people preferred the significantly longer beard over the others, yet we deliberately steered-away from an over-arching takeaway of “show the absolute longest beard possible”. More that, facial hair seems relevant & important in driving engagement.

      I wrote another post (http://bit.ly/1mLJf8L) on this you might find mutually interesting, focusing on crotches, instead of beards. I think you and I are onto something.

  6. Jeff · June 27, 2014 Reply

    Great test! How did beard length affect conversions?

    • Julian Scharman · June 27, 2014 Reply

      Hey Jeff, thanks for reading. I’ll reply similarly to how I answered Kelly. Unfortunately, in order to report on which images were more effective at driving conversions, we would have to reach a level of statistical significance that would require thousands more in media spend to achieve. I believe (rather firmly) that CTR remains one of the best, early indicators of interest. In the social ads, and this is particularly true on Facebook, because the units are so large, and in-stream, you can garner clicks quickly, and more reliably.

  7. Graham Jones - Internet Psychologist · June 27, 2014 Reply

    Are you sure you didn’t mean to publish this on April 1st….?

    Of course, I have no idea if what you have said here is true – the “evidence” which you provide could be made up as part of a PR stunt.

    Plus, the CTR are – like most adverts – so very low, that determining any real difference between them is meaningless. When more than 99% of people did not click, the differences between the remaining one percent are so small as to be likely to be due to pure chance alone, unless those small percentages are from hundreds of thousands of people.

    Furthermore, you haven’t controlled for the possibility that the clicks might not be genuine interest – they may well be based on amazement, shock or some other emotional reaction. The crucial statistic missing here is the purchase rate – what was the percentage of actual purchases from each advert? That is the real required statistic – CTR itself is almost meaningless.

    The data also conflicts with other studies which show that people without facial hair are preferred to men with facial hair, especially lots of it. Stubble is liked more than long beards in some studies – the reverse of your finding.

    Plus, the commenter MD is right, in that you don’t appear to take into account cultural influences on beard preference. This could skew results.

    So, what you have done is interesting – but flawed – unless, of course, it is just a publicity stunt, in which case well done…..!

    • Julian Scharman · June 27, 2014 Reply

      Hi Graham, thanks for reading and sharing such great feedback.

      For starters, this was absolutely not a publicity stunt– the findings are real, but alas, in order to conduct a true test, some the facial hair was Photoshopped.

      In terms of CTR, this is still one of the best, early indications of interest or creative effectiveness of online ads. The value of a click has been debated for sometime, but what about a like? a retweet? Those are clicks too. Meaningless?

      By your same logic of statistics (<1%), if marketers really knew what their TV or Out-of Home was actually delivering in terms of raw sales or sales prospects, they would probably stop doing it. But what if they knew how many people looked, or said "I might check that out"? Might that help drive some of their decisions in image choice?

      While yes, a click, a website visit, a like, a retweet, a reply are not as important as a bottom-line purchase, the points of engagements can be observed and should be tested.

      Not to mention, the biggest contradiction right now, is while yes the industry moves away from clicks as a core metric, all the major ad auctions technologies use CTR as the primary signal as to whether or not to show your ad. This is true for all forms of SEM and Social Advertising (Facebook, Twitter) etc. I met with the Gunjit Singh recently, the lead engineer/principle behind the Facebook ad auction, and he confirmed this.

      And to your (also very important) point regarding MD, please see my reply above.

      Cheers

      • thebearded1 · September 9, 2014 Reply

        Great comeback Julian! Too often some will ‘poo-poo’ the stats obtained methodically and berate the data because the subject at hand is not preferred by the naysayer. Glad Graham gave kudos (though quite backhanded). I too have a Psychology background, not a practitioner however – my field is Media Production and a significant portion of it is live and scripted programming, editing and audience measurement (passively obtained). Your outcome concurs in general with media sentiment that Beards are indeed favored, mainstream, and very effective at drawing attention. Yours is one among thousands of new adverts attesting to bearded men becoming very significant in wooing potential customers, and we know why: appearance connection sells products. I being 27 years bearded support companies that cater to and uphold the rights of bearded men, for starters – and I’m a known Beard Advocate who has fought hard for the right to keep my beard despite pressure from some in business and civic venues to conform to their beardless wishes. That is not a standard, that is discrimination. Court cases now agree and beards are finally growing freely, as nature and time immortal intended.

  8. Mayank · June 29, 2014 Reply

    Pretty interesting topic of experimentation. However, I’d like to know some details like (number of impressions served for all ads, on which site where they tested, what is the audience profile of that website like etc).

    I am quite surprised that the image with guy sporting largest beard got the best CTR. Still can’t believe it

  9. Joao Correia · June 30, 2014 Reply

    Hi,

    It would be interesting to include details about the number behind this.

    If you are testing the Minimum Detectable Effect of 20% on a click-through of 0.5% you are required to have a sample size of 102,791 users per branch.
    Your experiment has 6 branches, (102k x 6) = 612k Users, and still segment by man and woman.

    At the same time you have baseline conversion rates of 0.29% and reached Minimum Detectable Effect of 8%, that’s 1.4M Users per branch. I didn’t do the whole math but this test would require several million users.

    Could you provide some summary statistical information about this test, namely sample sizes by group?

  10. Simon Sedorenko · July 1, 2014 Reply

    I agree with Graham’s comment – “Furthermore, you haven’t controlled for the possibility that the clicks might not be genuine interest”

    Beard 6 looks so ridiculous that it was the only one I clicked on to take a closer look at.

    I imagine others did the same in order to see if the beard was actually real or fake (like it looks).

  11. Meshack · July 2, 2014 Reply

    Given this data I would immediately get under contract, international beard-sensation, Jack Passion as the Beta Brand spokesmodel.

    http://images.amcnetworks.com/ifc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/jack-passion-whisker-wars-ifc-americas-beardsman-episode-1.jpg

  12. Ulrik McArdle · July 12, 2014 Reply

    Hi,
    What is your statistic significance for this? How many users did you test,
    And how do you determin if a user is female or male.?

    Thank you for a fun post 🙂

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