Judging a Book by Its Cover

By: and

This assessment captures a phenomenon of human behavior and perception that is as true today as when the blonde bombshell uttered it almost 60 years ago. Not stated, but clearly implied, is that women tend to view matters differently than men when it comes to judging a book’s cover and contents.
Monroe’s premise has been corroborated by the results of the latest InterMedia Entertainment (IME) DR Star Index® (DRSI). The Index regularly tracks consumer perceptions of current and potential DR spokespeople for that role for six key attributes. Here, we analyze the scores of the highest-ranking celebrities in the Attractiveness category, and find a strong correlation between it, Influence, and Likeability.

Not surprisingly, perceptions of Attractiveness differ between men and women. For the savvy marketer, these variances can have significant implications in the evaluation and selection of a spokesperson.

A Few Good-Looking Men

Of the celebrities who ranked in the Top 50 in Attractiveness among all respondents, only one male (John Stamos, No. 39) makes the cut. Furthermore, of the Top 200 Attractiveness rankings, only 22 men, or just 11 percent, are included on the list.

This scarcity has roots in the way men and women distinguish desirability in the opposite sex. Among female survey respondents, only eight men made the survey’s Attractiveness Top 50: Stamos (2), Patrick Dempsey (12), Mario Lopez (14), Justin Timberlake (27), David Beckham (28), Mark Harmon (31), Enrique Iglesias (33), and Ashton Kutcher (44).

Among male respondents, no men made the Top 50. Stamos is still the highest-rated male celebrity, though men rank him No. 118. In fact, only four men from the combined Top 200 make the men’s list in addition to Stamos: Harmon (151), Beckham (171), and octogenarian Dick Van Dyke (188). While men don’t (or won’t) admit that they find other men attractive, women have no qualms about evaluating the visual appeal of the fairer sex.

Gender and Perception

To understand which variables contribute to—or detract from—high Attractiveness ratings, we tracked the scores for other spokesperson attributes relative to the top achievers in Attractiveness. The key findings:

For respondents overall, Attractiveness has the strongest relationship with Influence, or how influential a celebrity is perceived to be in terms of his or her persuasiveness with consumers to buy a brand. The second most important variable is Likeability, followed by Trust, Relevance, and Recognition.

The correlations for female respondents parallel the overall results exactly, though women place a slightly higher emphasis on Relevance, indicating that familiarity tends to breed magnetism for women more than men.

Male respondents, however, consider Likeability the most important co-attribute with Attractiveness. For men, this correlation is 36 percent higher than it is for women, while the correlation with Influence (men’s second-most-important variable) is identical to the women’s scores.

Perhaps this explains Dick Van Dyke’s unusually high Attractiveness ranking among men, as he places fourth among all celebrities in Likeability. Similarly, nonagenarian Betty White receives surprisingly strong scores for Attractiveness (ranking in the top 25 percent of all celebrities, right after Daryl Hannah and Dayna Devon); White garners the top position among all celebrities for Likeability.

Women’s Intuition

Other potentially meaningful findings for advertisers considering a celebrity brand ambassador are revealed in the ways that female respondents assess the Attractiveness of the most appealing male celebrities.

Eight male celebrities rank in the Women’s Top 50. Some key correlations for these eight men relative to those for all celebrities in the Women’s Top 50?

  • For women, a man’s Likeability is roughly 11 percent more significant when grading his Attractiveness than when they evaluate other women.
  • This dynamic is consistent when the situation is reversed; men consider Likeability most important when rating a woman’s Attractiveness.
  • Conversely, women consider a man’s Trustworthiness 11 percent less important when rating men’s Attractiveness than when judging the same attribute in other women.

Implications for Marketers

These findings can be beneficial in scenarios where an advertiser is debating whether to leverage a male or female spokesperson to reach a gender-
specific target. Until the 1960s, it was not uncommon for some women’s products, especially household-related, to be pitched by a male spokesperson, with the theory being that a man’s “voice of authority” was more influential to women. That counterintuitive arrangement has basically been abandoned, and today, most advertisers employ spokespeople of the same gender as the product’s users.

Certain categories, such as financial services, health care, and some personal care products, are targeted at both sexes and demand a trustworthy spokesperson of either gender to breed confidence and resonate with the target audience. DRSI results have consistently shown that consumers will not trust a pretty face blindly; shoppers are looking for a reliable, trustworthy messenger to deliver the facts about a particular product or service, and that messenger’s gender is secondary to his or her strength in other areas.

One example of this dynamic is Vanessa Williams, currently the brand ambassador for Clear Eyes and formerly for Crest toothpaste, both unisex products. Williams ranks 21st (in the top 3 percent) overall in Attractiveness, with high rankings among both genders. She also ranks in the top 10 percent of all celebrities for Influence, Likeability, and Trustworthiness, also scoring strongly with both men and women.

So it appears that Marilyn’s viewpoint is still relevant. Men and women are predisposed to judge a book by its cover, albeit for different reasons and with altered emphases, especially when the opposite sex is factored in.


InterMedia Entertainment™ (IME) handles celebrity acquisition and intellectual property development for the InterMedia Group of Companies® and provides custom research for advertisers pursuing celebrity marketing strategies.

Robert Yallen and Rob Levy can be reached at (818) 995-1455 or via email at [email protected] and [email protected]