are hairdressers the key to measuring the pulse of the nation?

Sitting in the hairdressers the other evening I was reminded that people tell hairdressers things that they’d never tell a market researcher.  My hairdresser confirmed that his long-term clients tend to be more racist/ sexist/ homophobic/ politically extreme in his chair than is socially acceptable – it’s a ‘safe space’ where they say what they are really thinking, free of any political correctness, libel laws or group-think (at which point he quickly tries to divert the conversation towards something less offensive).  With an activity as intimate and hands-on as cutting and styling your hair it would seem that boundaries come tumbling down and people say what they really think and feel, not what they think they should say.

So that got me thinking that with let’s say 40 clients each a week hairdressers probably have a very good take on what the nation is currently thinking.  So why aren’t one of the research companies running a Hairdresser’s Panel?  You could pop a standard quant research app on their iphones and send your representative sample of, say, 200 hairdressers and barbers ten questions a week asking about their client’s take on current news stories, brand perceptions, intention to participate in events etc.

A bit of googling reveals that DDB London did launch a Grapevine Panel in 2005 – but it was limited to eight respondents, a mix of cab drivers, hairdressers, pub landlords and beauticians.  I found a reference to it in 2009, but nothing since then so presumably it was killed off.

Anyone fancy having another go? The 2015 UK elections proved that particularly with things like voting intention, what people tell a researcher they are going to do and what they actually end up doing can be rather different.  Social media listening called the last election wrong too.  But I actually did quiz my hairdresser a couple of weeks before the election for a prediction based on what his his clients were saying – and he was bang on.


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