1) The Girls on the Beach & The Boy on the Beach
Executive Summary, Marketing Research Tall Tale #1
A young non-descript, unprepossessing Scandinavian man walks up to women on a beach to strike up a conversation with them. His purpose is a) to pass some time being friendly and b) possibly to get a date. They always talk to him, every single time, married or single, day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out. Some of these women are notoriously unfriendly, with a track record of rejecting any approach at all with stone-cold, implacable hostility. How did he do it?
We were young, on the move, on the beach – forming a large, amorphous clique. We came from universities, some of them elite, some of them marginal, most of them expensive. We had more money than was good for us, or pretended we did. We ranged from wannabe jet setters to junior members of that scene. There was another crowd, 30 to 50 + years old, of actual jet setters, complete with Aston-Martins and Ferraris. Life was good in the fast lane on the Costa Brava in Spain.
The girls ranged from pretty to movie star beautiful. They knew who we were and what we represented. They generally preferred the adult members of the fast lane. They sometimes made exceptions, above all for two card-carrying members of the clique, and for one outsider. The first was a German law student, 1,92 (almost 6´ 4”) tall, who bore a striking resemblance to the Hollywood movie star James Coburn. His USP (unique selling proposition) was a peculiar language skill. Over and above fluent English, he knew 30 to 50 words apiece of a good 25 different languages. He used these limited vocabularies very successfully as an icebreaker before switching to English.
The second exception was a Russian-American, also 1,92 tall, perfectly bilingual, with a remarkable physique. He had been the stroke on a championship crew, eights, in Washington DC. He received frequent offers to try out as a male model, which he never followed up on. His USP was being smooth as silk, just oozing charm from every pore.
The third, the outsider, was perplexing. He was an innocuous Scandinavian, perhaps 1,77 (5´8”) tall, slightly built and completely, totally, without distinguishing features of any kind at all. He was not a member of the clique, had almost no contact with it, and did not seem to belong in the fast lane at all. He didn’t even seem to have much money. Horrors! Yes, he had a suntan, but so did everyone else. He was literally the faceless boy on the beach. In fact, when the clique eventually came to notice him, he was nicknamed, “the boy on the beach.”
There were two places to meet women, on the beach in the day, and in the clubs at night. Most of us got turned down a lot and all of us got turned down sometimes. We were too young, too eager, too arrogant, or the woman was in a marriage, in a relationship, or just wanted some privacy. Rejection happened to the amorphous clique a lot, and certainly to the older, legitimate jet setters too. Aside from some Hollywood legends, a few rock stars and maybe Boris Becker in his day, all men hear the word “no” from women more or less frequently.
But apparently not the boy on the beach, and he would walk up to a girl on the beach often. The reaction to him would be friendly, every single time, day in, day out, week in, week out. Sometimes just a few sentences would be exchanged and he would stroll on. More often than not he would sit down next to her and stay.
A triad of women, sophisticated, sexy -- models from Paris was the rumor -- arrived. The day of their arrival they were having lunch at a cafe. A James Bond type roared up in a red Ferrari. He drove it over the sidewalk, screeching to a stop with the Ferrari´s nose almost into the cafe. Getting out, he strides over to hand them two dozen roses. They laugh at him and tell him to get lost.
They were not impressed with the German’s 50 odd words of French. When the Russian-American tried his luck, they disdainfully waved him away. The next couple of days they were besieged with suitors young and old. They gave not a one of them the time of the day.
Intimidated, the amorphous clique finally left them in peace, when who should re-appear, but the “boy on the beach,” who had been absent a couple of days. Some of the clique decided to play a practical joke on him. They called him over and asked him where he had been. “Market research,” he grunted. (Poor fellow had to work in the summer holidays?) They continued: “See those three beautiful girls over there. We think they’re bored and lonely. You should go over to talk to them. They’re really friendly, very nice girls, easy to meet. You’ re sure to like one another.” He looked over at the girls, looked at us, shrugged, and sauntered off in their direction.
We can hardly control our laughter in anticipation. Whatever line he is using, it won’t work with these beauties, no chance. He’ll finally get his comeuppance. This is going to be great!
He stops in front of the girls and looks them over. They ignore him, looking right through him as if he were air. He says just a few words to each in turn, barely a sentence. They look astonished. He says a few more words with a smile and starts to move on. The girls wave him back to sit down with them. They are obviously enthralled.
We never could figure out what he did. When we would walk up to women after he had left them and asked what he had said to them to begin with anyway, they would either get irritated or just laugh. At the end of the summer, we finally resorted to desperate measures. We asked the “boy on the beach” himself what his secret was.
He graciously explained. He said he was a business and economics student. He was just applying what he had learned in one of his courses. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it took a little more effort, but it pretty much worked with all women, except for those in a very narrowly defined market niche.
If you have the chance to do public speaking or run a seminar where quite a few women are present, especially young, attractive, educated women, ask them what such a nondescript “boy on the beach” could say to them. Whether the woman is married- or not, in a relationship - or not, heterosexual - or not, bored or busy, young or old, it will work 99% of the time – given that she is not a member of that narrowly defined market niche.
What is interesting is that the women almost never figure it out (and the men, forget it, no chance). The women come up with all kinds of wonderful, imaginative ideas – which at least a couple of other women in the room will reject. “Yes, that’s charming, but I still wouldn’t answer. I am very married.”
When told what the boy on the beach was doing, they are astonished at how simple it is. They confess it would, indeed work with them, but, but, but, well, but how would he find that out anyway?
So what was his USP, what magic beans was he using? Your company wants to acquire customers, correct? For a great many companies, some of those customers could be women, yes? Before you get too excited about what the solution is, no you can not take this man’s approach and bottle it to win new “very difficult” female customers. Nevertheless, try to think of some creative approaches on your own before turning to the next subpage to find out what his "grim" solution was.
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