Answers for Adam: Do you prefer your planner to have a beard?

Answers For Adam After his column last week which said British planners sound more intelligent Adam Ferrier  brings out some evidence to back up his argument. 

The general gist of the comments from last weeks article (do you prefer your agency planners to have British accents) were  a) what silly tripe I was peddling talking about stereotypes, b) I don’t ‘curate’ my own column very well, and c) that I was being generally anti-British. 

Ferrier (disclaimer, he does have a beard)

Ferrier (disclaimer, he does have a beard)

Here’s just one study I came across that says people with a British accent were rated as more intelligent, trustworthy, and attractive than other (Anderson, et al., 2007). However, rather than get bogged down in the studies that support the contention – I’m just amazed how many people really thought that a persons accent makes no difference to how they are perceived – of course your accent impacts people’s perceptions of you, and how intelligent you are.  You don’t need academic evidence to substantiate that – surely?

Here are some other startling insights from the world of the blindingly obvious.  If you have two people side by side saying the same thing then there is research to suggest:

  • The person who wears glasses is going to be perceived as more intelligent (Thornton, 1944). (Interestingly there is also some evidence to suggest people who wears glasses are actually more intelligent too (Cohn, 1988))
  • The person who has a beard is going to be perceived as more intelligent  (Pellegrini, 1972)
  • The person with less piercings will be perceived as more intelligent (Swami, 2012)
  • The taller of the two people (if male) will be seen as more intelligent

So as well as having a British accent, tall planners without piercings but with a beard are, all things being equal, likely to be favoured by our clients (if looking for intelligence).

Just because something seems trivial and everyday doesn’t mean it isn’t beyond questioning.  Stereotypes can be insidious.

My question this week is aimed at the people who were so negative last week “Does this new information change your mind?”

Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist and CSO at Cummins & Partners. @adamferrier


Anderson, A., Downs, S.D., Faucette, K., Griffin, J., King, T., Woolstenhulme, S. (2007). How Accents Affect perception of Intelligence, Physical Attractiveness, and Trustworthiness. Intuition: BYU Undergraduate Journal of Psychology, 3, 5-11.

Cohn, S. J.  Cohn, C. M. G, Jensen, A. R. (1988). Myopia and intelligence: a pleiotropic relationship? Human Genetics, 80 (1), 53-58.

Pellegrini, R. J. (1972). “To Beard, Or Not To Beard”: An experimental study in social perception. Presented at the Western Psychological Association meetings, Portland, Oregon, April, 1972.

Swami, Viren; Stieger, Stefan; Pietschnig, Jakob; Voracek, Martin; Furnham, Adrian; Tovée, Martin J. (2012) European Psychologist, The influence of facial piercings and observer personality on perceptions of physical attractiveness and intelligence.  Vol 17(3),  213-221


  1. Another Agency
    3 Jun 14
    11:39 am

  2. Ok, I’m warming to you again now Adam. I am tall, I have a beard, I’m British and I’m a planner/buyer. You are a damn fine human being.

  3. me
    3 Jun 14
    11:39 am

  4. I once worked for a guy with a fake beard.

  5. John
    3 Jun 14
    11:45 am

  6. Attitudes towards beard changes, and is unlikely to be the same in 1972 as they are today.

  7. Shamma
    3 Jun 14
    11:49 am

  8. Referencing research authors in brackets DEFINITELY makes you appear more intelligent.

  9. Hugo
    3 Jun 14
    12:02 pm

  10. As one of those who was critical last time my – the short answer is no. The longer answer is that you likely misperceived my criticism.

    Admittedly I’m at fault for giving you a 2.5 word answer last time but this was me deliberately deciding to answer a silly question with a silly answer.

    You seem to think the criticism of the last response is a failure on the part of others to recognise that stereotypes exits – I assume this is why you have said:

    “Stereotypes, and assumptions shouldn’t go unquestioned – to deny them is stupid. Read ‘Blink’ for a refresh. To explore them robs them of their power”

    I don’t really know on what basis you have accused your critics of thinking this…I certainly didn’t see any of them saying it, it certainly looks like a textbook example of using the straw man argument ect ect……

    But I’ll still bite and explain myself. On reading your last piece my thoughts went like this:

    a) He’s phoning it in this week
    b) He’s clearly being cheeky and trying to get some page views and comments here (mission accomplished btw).
    c) It’s pretty ugly using silly stereotype to get click bait.

    Statement like “In England most people study things they’ll never be like philosophy, or letters, or Latin. All completely useless, but somehow just make people more interesting and seemingly intelligent before they become dumbed down ad folk.” Seem to not just be acknowledging a stereotype but be promoting it…’s certainly miles away from challenging it.

    BTW In know sense did I feel culturally/racially offended (probably because I’m not English). It was my intelligence that felt insulted.

    Honestly not trying to start a flame war here. But I figure if you ask, that’s an honest answer.

  11. Ricki
    3 Jun 14
    12:14 pm

  12. In 1972 beards were unusual. In 2014, they’re not. So what possible relevance a 42 year old, redundant study has on this topic, only you can know. But then again it does fit in with your (presumably) unconscious bias that planners be ‘blokes’ so there is that.

    I do realise you’re just trolling now. It’s not a good look.

  13. fraser
    3 Jun 14
    1:47 pm

  14. Seriously, has it came to this? This is a sad indictment of a web site that prides itself with its awards for bravery.

    Will the last person to leave Mumbrella Towers please turn off the lights.

  15. Alex Hayes
    3 Jun 14
    2:04 pm

  16. Hi Fraser,

    It’s Mumbrella House for the record.


    Alex – editor, Mumbrella

  17. Katie
    3 Jun 14
    2:19 pm

  18. Except the study (Anderson, et al. 2007) you cite didn’t find any statistically significant differences. So while it doesn’t necessarily negate your argument, it certainly doesn’t support it!

    Wonder how the (non-significant) results would extrapolate beyond this sample (n=123 American psychology students)…

  19. unilad
    3 Jun 14
    3:20 pm

  20. I’m English… and people do tend to study anything for the sake of it – and it does make us a lot more interest, and seemingly more intelligent…. Why study a boring business diploma course when you can study something ridiculously eye-opening and fun at a uni far far away from home and gain a wealth of life experience like: seeing off beers, playing ring of fire, going balls deep, missing lectures, blazing, chanting songs on the bus…

    If I had an agency – I’d get some posh English people involved because they do sound a hell of a lot more intelligent and do tend to have more life experience than Australians – therefore bringing a naughty sense of humour, great creative ideas, and a wealth of talent. Sometimes Aussies sound sheltered, and simple – as if they haven’t had exposure to much outside of their lecture hall, office, and parents home.

    rah di rah di rah..

    i forgot where my point is going… possibly cos i dont have beard and don’t wear glasses. god dammit.

  21. Yawnn
    3 Jun 14
    4:19 pm

  22. You have to spend the morning either Adam Ferrier or Todd Sampson, who would you chose?

  23. Guy
    3 Jun 14
    4:52 pm

  24. Wearing a beard now and in 1972 was very similar in terms of what it said about you socially (and superficially). It’s in 1982 (think Top Gun) or even 92 that you were in trouble with a beard.

  25. Phil Phelan
    3 Jun 14
    5:47 pm

  26. Adam,

    Speaking as a six foot six bespectacled bearded planner with no english accent I commend this article and can say people respect me less when I take my glasses off.

    However I think it overlooks that being tall, with a beard and glasses (regardless of gender) may actually co-relate with intelligence, and intelligence with perception of intelligence. You’ve missed a critical causal leap.

    Our industry is built on conveying persuasive meaning through stereotypes and motifs, and as an industry we embrace it more than most. It’s not how we like to think we are, but it is how we are, because we’re human.

  27. ponder
    4 Jun 14
    10:07 am

  28. What about women?
    Are women with beards perceived more intelligent?

  29. sven
    4 Jun 14
    10:16 am

  30. reel them in Adam, nice ploy

    ps….aren’t bearded people lazy and untrustworthy though?

  31. Zac
    4 Jun 14
    10:53 am

  32. Virginia would be awful with a beard.

  33. Nah
    4 Jun 14
    12:33 pm

  34. RT @ponder. Last 2 pieces have been really male biased (“dinky di Aussie bloke”). Things have changed since 1972.

  35. Graham
    4 Jun 14
    2:40 pm

  36. The answer is Eurovision 2014!!

  37. Ed
    4 Jun 14
    3:45 pm

  38. @ Guy. You’re talking utter nonsense. Top Gun release was 1986. And since we were all wearing our clothes backwards in 1992 thanks to Kris Kross, frontal facial hair was considered a faux pas. Beards stood no chance.

  39. No Sorry
    4 Jun 14
    3:54 pm

  40. Buying off an English accent is hard enough. Then finding out they have a beard too! No way.

    Give me an Aussie any day.

  41. offalspokesperson
    4 Jun 14
    4:20 pm

  42. @yawwwn

    Doesnt matter, neither of them would notice you.

  43. Mel
    5 Jun 14
    10:00 pm

  44. OK – Here’s a question…Why is it that a large number of men in Advertising are growing beards and wearing thick black rimmed glasses? They all look like clones. Be creative guys, be original! You really don’t look trendy and cool, just like a pack of bleating sheep….

  45. Eda
    6 Jun 14
    6:44 pm

  46. Adam,

    Sorry, but I think we’ve come a long way as a society (I’m not Australian so making an assumption for Australia here) since 1944 (invention of contact lens), 1972 (beards are commonplace nowadays, so if this study were to be conducted today, I don’t think there’d be a correlation between beards and intelligence) and as such perhaps you need better supporting materials to back you up.

    Most powerful argument is that judging a book by its cover is not the smartest thing to do. Having many pierced and extremely intelligent friends, I hear the merit of a message rather than accessories and find your evidence poorly prepared. I am not offended, but greatly entertained so please don’t bother preparing another defense.

  47. Stan says...
    6 Jun 14
    8:46 pm

  48. Beard or no beard. English or Aussie. Let’s face it nobody really cares about planners anyway. Consumer psychologists however is a whole ‘nother story.

  49. Mike
    9 Jun 14
    9:02 am

  50. The pommy accent in marketing circles says “refugee” – from what? is the question. Possibly from the low wages paid in marketing in the UK; possibly from absence of work offers in the UK; and in some cases, from failed careers in the UK and the plan to reinvent themselves in Asia-Pacific.
    Some Australian hirers fall for the spiv / car-boot sale accent, confusing its character with something from TV that they watched and enjoyed. They usually get burned by the experience. If in doubt, do what too few employers do: research and cross-check. There are a lot of frauds doing the rounds.

  51. cody
    10 Jun 14
    3:00 pm

  52. I’m a tall American with no beard growing abilities and I have tatoos. Am I doomed Adam?

  53. Eve
    11 Jun 14
    11:49 am

  54. Adam you and your beards are a massive yawn to women. Grow up, boy!

  55. Fi
    11 Jun 14
    3:03 pm

  56. I’m an Aussie strategist, and worked in the UK for 5 years.
    My main client was the BBC.
    Do I think I was judged for my accent when I first started working on the account? Absolutely. Did I adapt my language and (unconsciously) my accent to make my clients trust me more when I was telling them what I thought they should do with their brands? Absolutely.
    To suggest that the accent someone has and the language they use doesn’t have an effect on opinion / perception / trust is to ignore some of the basics of sociolinguistics.

  57. Fraser
    12 Jun 14
    8:57 am

  58. i’ve got a strong Scottish accent, which a lot of aussie folks can’t understand. But they do seem to nod a lot when i talk. Would I make for a good planner?

  59. Code
    12 Jun 14
    10:01 am

  60. So now you’re saying we can actually measure return on investment for our hipster beard implants?

  61. Sage observer
    13 Jun 14
    12:52 pm

  62. I prefer my planner to be clean shaven.

  63. Annie
    13 Jun 14
    6:03 pm

  64. Adam,
    Working in a multi-national agency in the 80’s, it was considered something of a trope that “a foreigner (read Brit) with a box of slides” could be considered an expert and the poor dumb Aussies would all be agog, sponge like, and lapping up the drops of wisdom as they dripped from the source. What’s changed?

  65. Liza
    23 Jun 14
    10:40 pm

  66. As in a 28 year old planner in skinny jeans and full hipster beard?

    Seen as more intelligent?


  67. Bangers & Mash
    25 Jun 14
    1:41 pm

  68. I prefer my planner to be nude save for assless chaps….

  69. Doug
    25 Jun 14
    3:24 pm

  70. So warm beer drinking, poorly coordinated gangly men with poor ablution habits, and poor teeth (because all English have poor teeth), with “how’s ya father”, wink wink, nudge nudge”, soccer/football hooligan accent are preferred… ha! who would have thought?

  71. Nolio
    2 Jul 14
    3:45 pm

  72. excuse me for being naive, but I would’ve thought a planner that was clean shaven and well dressed (in a suit or similar) would be (stereotypically speaking) a lot more organised and trusted by a client (and perhaps even hardworking) than a Surry HIlls hipster with food in his beard wearing torn $400 jeans and sneakers, considering planning is not really a creative job, more of a strategy/negotiation job that requires attention to detail and significant organisation/methods…