The contradictions of eyelashes and data

We're drawn to brands that know how to make us smile. Data doesn't teach you that.Christine sends me this image of a VW with eyelashes attached to its front headlights. And all I can think is “There’s just no way on God’s good earth that big data can predict this.”

It’s flirty. It’s girly. It’s extraordinarily popular. And I don’t get it. Thing is – I don’t have to. It’s not for me.

I’m the first to admit I’d probably never have thought of this. But clearly someone else did – and they made it fly (probably with every man in the vicinity snorting in disbelief).

Read eyelashes on a car in a number of ways. The power of the woman consumer in the car market for starters. The wish by consumers to distinctualise a brand by adding a form of self expression. The opportunity to build a short-term brand on the success of another brand.

What you can’t read into it is this. There is no way that a spreadsheet could have predicted this would take hold. In much the same way as no-one would have foretold that putting a plastic flower in the Golf originally would send sales through the roof.

It’s categorically impossible to foretell the success of such whimsy on the basis of numbers alone. In fact, its unpredictability is exactly what makes it such a fascinating idea for some – and a complete mystery to others.

This idea touches something that data can’t reach. It reaches past people’s disinterest, their preoccupations, the things that fill their heads … and it ignites a smile. In a world of predictive data and behavioural patterns, research groups, focus committees and mind-readers, every test result you are fed as a marketer is inferior to your understanding of one very, very basic question.

Who will smile – and then, how much will they buy?

More reading

Other perspectives

Brands look to personalisation in 2012 (
The Brand Building Power of Personalization (
Brands can have a personality too (
Ads that entertain don’t sell and isn’t selling the goal of advertising ? (


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