Songs claim the truth to a relationship is in the kiss. Many movies that end happily ever after involve a kiss, so how could a study reveal that kissing in on the decline? Gillette wanted to know the answer.
Launching a study that tours to different cities around the country, including a stop at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Gillette sent out a team of experts to study kissing. Women speak up about what they prefer in a kiss, and ways they have avoided a kiss. With hygiene being one of the leading factors in a kiss, Gillette posed the question, do women prefer kissing a man who is clean shaven or stubbly?
Though answers vary across age and culture, I chatted with Susan Baba from Gillette to discuss results. With the main reveal of results happening on St. Valentine's Day in New York, we touched on topics of study, insight and travel. Of course, we also talked about relationships and kissing.
Author Marisa Williams: What is your home town, and is that where you live now?
Susan Baba: Well, I'm originally from Nigeria, but I grew up in Cincinnati, so I consider that my hometown. Recently, I moved to Boston, so that is my home now.
Marisa: Where and what did you study?
Susan: I studied at Ohio State University, Marketing
Marisa: How did you get started in marketing, and what influenced your decision to do that?
Susan: I actually, my dad's a chemist, and my mom's computer programer, so I did a lot of science and math stuff in school, but I didn't want to study that in college. I applied to five schools, and the applications ranged from music to journalism and other stuff. I went to Ohio State, and I had applied to business school there. That's what decided that in the beginning, then I liked the course work, so I decided to stay with it. That did not change from what I had originally declared.
Marisa: How does kissing play a part in the average relationship?
Susan: I don't know historically about kissing, but when you talk about relationships and intimacy, physical contact, whether it's putting a hand on someone's arm or something else, all those help strengthen the bond of a relationship. Kissing falls into that category. When we seen the study that claims that kissing is on the decline, we were concerned for the strength of relationships overall.
Marisa: How does someone know when it's the right moment to kiss?
Susan: I think it's whoever thinks of it first leans in, and hopefully the other picks up on the hint. I don't know if there is a perfect time, maybe New Year's is the only perfect moment, but there's never a bad time for a kiss.
Marisa: Any kissing tips?
Susan: Working as part of a campaign, there's a relationship expert that gives tips and talks about the biggest turn offs, like bad breath. Stubble, research has shown, is one of those things. There are other things, such as being distracted, and not focusing in on your partner. I think as long as you focus on hygiene and make your partner feel special, that is the best.
Marisa: How did the kissing study come about, and how did Gillette get involved?
Susan: I think the study is an ancient art form that predates the work we're doing here. The study was inspired by the Gillette India team, as they had been working on a project for past five years, called Women Against Lazy Stubble. The program is used to mobilize women, and it gives them a chance to say how they prefer the men in life to wear their facial hair. Gillette has had some insight on how men are comfortable sharing insight on what their partners are wearing, or what they did with their hair, but women are not necessarily that way. Women tend to be less vocal about appearance and facial hair, but women have a lot of opinions about how men wear facial hair. This gives women a voice to allow them to speak to men about what they find to be the most kissable.
Marisa: Have they found any reason why would someone might actually prefer stubble over a smooth face for kissing?
Susan: One of the things we found, overall, our data leans towards a preference for smooth shaving. Our initial survey was with over a thousand women, and some results vary by age. Younger women, in late teens, prefer the look of stubble - the dark, mysterious look - but not necessarily the feel of it. They like to rock the stubble for the look, but kissing with a day's old stubble is not most pleasant experience in life, so there's no balance there.
Marisa: What sets Gillette apart from other razors?
Susan: The amount of research they do for razors. They are the most innovative. When the Mach 3 came out, it blew away the competition. Pro-Glide has been ranked as best razor by organizations and independent testers. With regard to kissing, some guys are not shaving, because they like look of it. It's an expression of person style, but a number shave less frequently due to sensitive skin. Gillette has most right to play into this conversation, as their razors help men feel confident. The study has shown that women feel clean shaven is the most kissable. For those not shaving for fear of razor bumps and skin irritation, Pro-Glide Silver Touch is the number one dermatologist recommended for skin, and it has been given strong accolades from third parties about the quality of the razors.
Marisa: What's the coolest thing about the kissing project?
Susan: The coolest thing about the tour is the survey data hits home to the inner nerd in me. It's interesting to see the data, and we have a website with all our new content, www.kissandtellus.com. It shows what women find the most kissable, discusses stubble burn, as well as some of the things women have done to avoid kissing people with stubble, and how people respond. As a woman, it's cool to provide women with a voice to find what they think is the most kissable.
Marisa: What is your best, or worst, kissing moment?
Susan: I just recently got engaged, so I feel everything I say has to be carefully crafted. I will say that the best kiss ever was when I kissed my then boyfriend to become my fiance, when I said yes to his proposal to become engaged. It speaks to the type of bond people get to have. Even if it's just a peck, the connection with a partner is meaningful.
Marisa: What's your favorite way to travel and why?
Susan: I used to be a huge fan of airplanes, because I'd like to look out of the window seat, but I like to take the train a lot to travel to New York and am really loving the train It's calming, and it has wi-fi, so it's enjoyable.
Marisa: What is the scariest thing about being on the road?
Susan: Before I had GPS, my phone was my GPS. Oh, gosh, I'd worry about the battery dying, then I wouldn't know where I was going. No, I've alleviated that, because I have a charger for my GPS. Have you ever had that? Where it's down to the last bar? I knew I needed a proper GPS.
Marisa: What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?
Susan: The best trip I've been on was a couple years ago. It was a girl's trip to Constantinople. I had traveled in Europe, and it's not totally different from here, but being in Turkey was like being in a different world. It's fun to explore and learn history. My next travel destination on my list is Morocco. We shall see. I keep seeing all these places online. I actually seen a LivingSocial deal, 15 days in Morocco, with air and hotel, and it quickly moved up on my list. The pictures were gorgeous, and it was such a nice price...
Marisa: What's your biggest marketing fantasy?
Susan: Technically, I'm in communications. With a brand, I don't really have a bucket list; rather, I take each day as it comes. I've had some amazing opportunities. I love reading about when brands participate in causes. It happened earlier in career, I worked with Dawn. They started their wildlife program, which raised awareness and helped out during Gulf Oil Spill by providing donations of products and helping with relief efforts. For me, it was a career high to see the brand play a roll in such a big need for that area. That's something that I really love, so I love marketing campaigns with a cause focus, because we get to give back.
Marisa: If you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and why? Would you have any special powers?
Susan: The first color that popped in head was blue, which was odd, because usually my favorite color is green. Blue, and if I had special powers, besides flying, I would have opposable thumbs. Not necessarily a power, but something I'd miss as a unicorn.
Marisa: If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?
Susan: I'd be Funfetti yogurt, because I like Funfetti cake mix.
Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.
Susan: I'd probably be a cartoon, because I'm not so much an animal person, as far as pets. Angelica from Rugrats comes to mind. It's not that I'm not very nice, but I think I have some of Angelica's sassy and bossiness in me.
Marisa: Do you collect anything?
Susan: Yes, two things, three: fortune cookie fortunes - only the good ones that tell me what I wanna hear - post cards from places I've traveled, and interesting rocks – like ones in the shape of a heart, or really smooth. That's one of the newer things I collect when I'm traveling.
Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?
Susan: I'm really OCD, though I don't know if that's a hidden talent, and I'm a singer.
Marisa: What's the most important thing to remember?
Susan: Gratitude and being grateful. I have it tattooed on my body to remind me, for when I get in my cycle of not being grateful. You have to be grateful for what you are and what you have.
Marisa: What's your best aha! Moment?
Susan: This links back to the skills. I've been singing for a really long time. I've done stage production, and things like that, but when I get nervous, I stop breathing. I'd literally stop breathing in the middle of a line, so I wrote something on my hand that said breathe. So since then, I've been consistent.
Marisa: If you were not doing psychology, what would you be doing?
Susan: If I had an unlimited amount of money? I would either be doing something with music, or I'd be doing something with kids, like running an orphanage. I have a kid obsession. Don't think I'm better than I am, but I would love it and enjoy it.
Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?
Susan: Cell phone, Chapstick, and bubble gum.
Marisa: Any advice for those starting out in marketing?
Susan: I think the thing most helpful to me was doing internships and co-ops, getting work experience. People go from undergrad to their Masters, but it sets you up to succeed with real world experience. Find mentors of people doing what you want to be doing. Most people don't ever get asked meaningful questions, so if you're curious, people are open and willing to give advice and help.
Marisa: Where can people find more about the Gillette kissing experiment?
Susan: Kissandtellus.com is our central dashboard for everything; facebook.com/gillette and on twitter, those are our main hubs. Our documentary on the death of the kiss is really neat. Results were inconclusive, because we had not run our survey at that time, but it's interesting to hear different takes on stubble and relationships. It's a way to find out what we're doing.
Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?
Susan: We have an event on the 14th in New York, which is the culminating event. We've traveled across country, let people do it live, and we will unveil the results on the 14th.. We're tryign to break the Guinness World Record for most kisses, as well as the record for the biggest shave lesson. Tune into our social media stations, or come to New York to check it out live.
Marisa Williams is the author of 100 books. She earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.wix.com/thorisaz/photography.