What Hair Stylists Taught Me About Creative Strategy

From Great Creative Strategy Springs Great Haircuts

Fact: I have very thick, very plentiful hair. Confession: it took decades, and many TERRIBLE haircuts for me to figure out how to find the right stylist and how to ask for what I want so that I have hair that's easy to maintain and doesn't make me look like a crazy person on any given day. 

Another fact: this blog isn't by Spanky. Don't worry, he'll be back, but in the meantime, you've got me: Meaghan, your friendly neighborhood Zombie.

Let's flashback to some of my top (or rock bottom... depending on how you look at it) looks: 

The Pyramid Perm (circa 1994)

I can blame this on my mom (Hi, Mom!) since she took me to the salon and paid for it, but curls were in and I wanted them. My hair was too plentiful for the curls to look relaxed and natural. They just got crowded together and maintained the perfect triangular shape of a pyramid. 

What I wanted….keep in mind Nicole Kidman ROCKED this in the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s.

What I wanted….keep in mind Nicole Kidman ROCKED this in the late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s.

What I got…except it was NOT this cool. Not even close.

What I got…except it was NOT this cool. Not even close.

Lesson Learned: Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should, too. Is it REALLY right for you? It's okay to ask the professional that's about to put 100 rollers in your hair (against her better judgment) what the most likely outcome is going to be. Maybe everyone's pushing hard on "buy now" and "bottom of funnel" ads in your mastermind group, but you know what? At Ad Zombies, our best brand marketing ROAS (return on ad spend) comes from posts like this one.

The Pagoda (circa 2006)

I approached a mall salon in Augusta, Georgia thinking it was a good day for my just-past-shoulder-length hair to get a trim. It was pajama day at the salon, and I was told by a dude in Sponge Bob pajamas that he could cut my hair right now. This didn't seem like a great idea and yet I heard myself say "okay, sure!" I asked for some layers so my hair would sit nicely, and turn under a bit. I walked out with three layers that all flipped OUTWARD, the shortest layer on top so that my hair looked like the roof line of a Pagoda. It was... tragic.

What I wanted. Seems simple and reasonable enough, right?

What I wanted. Seems simple and reasonable enough, right?

There are literally no photos that represent the haircut I received. Start by imagining Mrs. Brady’s flipped out mullet and add some flipped out layers on top of it. Terrible, right?

There are literally no photos that represent the haircut I received. Start by imagining Mrs. Brady’s flipped out mullet and add some flipped out layers on top of it. Terrible, right?

The Lesson: It's okay to get to know the style of your stylist. And if you're not on the same page, maybe look around and try to find a better fit. If you're a bad-ass biker, would you get a tattoo from an artist who specializes in hipsters who love goat yoga? Probably not. And, that's okay. Florence Henderson (Mrs. Brady) looks great in the cut I was given. I did not. Being able to describe your vibe (your tone, your style, your unique perspective) goes a long way to establishing an understanding of what will and won't work for you: for haircuts or marketing creative.

The GI Jane (circa 2015)

Once upon a time, I got a long-ish pixie cut and it really worked for me. On a whim, I got it trimmed at an Aveda store in a mall. (I should have known better, you're probably shouting at the screen. And you're about to be proven RIGHT!) Because it wasn't a salon, it was a retail store with one salon chair. The girl who cut my hair was certified and "loved pixies" so I let her go to town. When I left, my hair was so short, it looked like GI Jane had just graduated basic training and was allowed to start growing her hair out. Yikes.

A pretty darn close approximation of what I wanted (and previously had).

A pretty darn close approximation of what I wanted (and previously had).

And then I got this. Without the sweet ribbon-dancing leotard or scarf. So that’s…fine. I guess.

And then I got this. Without the sweet ribbon-dancing leotard or scarf. So that’s…fine. I guess.

Lesson Learned: If you have hard boundaries, share them upfront. And if it looks like it's going sideways, it's okay to reinforce your preferences. Maybe your boundaries are industry regulations: that's non-negotiable and you don't have to apologize for that... but you do have to tell your collaborators upfront. If you've tried an approach and it hasn't worked, feel free to share that. If you're nervous about taking a new approach, share that too. Communication is key!

So, am I still a hot mess of confusing cuts? Nope!

Now I know how to ask for what I need. I know that I can show the stylist a few photos that are inspiring what I'm asking for and then TALK to her (or him) about how this might work for my hair. I'm also much more conservative with "the ask" the first time I work with a new stylist. That first cut is the time where she can get to know my hair AND my personality. The more we work together, the more I can say "I'm feeling..." and she can say "what if we..." and it all works out.

I have no more than three priorities for a cut and I'm clear on how important they are to me.* 

"So how does this all tie back to marketing strategy, Meaghan?"

Even the best stylist can't read my mind. And I don't understand the technical jargon that would allow me to tell a stylist HOW to cut my hair. In the end, communicating about your goals and your requirements is a skill that will carry you far in life: whether you're looking for a great haircut or for someone to build awesome creative for your marketing campaign. 

Here's the good news about getting a bad haircut: it's not the end of the world. It's temporary. It will grow back! So too with almost all of your marketing efforts. If a campaign doesn't work, it's okay. It's not forever, just try something a little different next time.

*If anyone is dying to know, my priorities for a cut usually are as follows:

  1. Must look okay even when I barely blow dry it. I do not do blow-outs or straighten my hair regularly. The world is lucky if I spend more than 5 minutes a day tending this mane. #sorrynotsorry.

  2. Must not annoy me when I work out. This usually relates to a length requirement: if it's long enough I can braid it, or if it's short enough a headband does the trick.

  3. Must not require frequent appointments to maintain. Remember "The Rachel" from Friends? Jen Aniston needed, like, weekly haircuts to keep that thing looking fresh. I'm lucky if I make time every 4 months to get my hair cut.


 
Meaghan Rodeckjpg

Meaghan Rodeck

T.G.I.F. (WTF is that?!)
Team Growth Infrastructure Facilitator