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Many years ago, I was in a meeting where a client was using their ‘data’ to explain why they wouldn’t be going with our idea.
At the heart of the clients issue was the fact they felt the audience we were going to engage was too niche and they wanted to go as broad as possible.
Putting aside the fact you should never have a target audience of ‘everyone’ – not to mention the fact by targeting the core of a culture, you find they pull the broader culture up with them – what we hated was the client was [incorrectly] using data to hide behind their fear.
Up steps Andy.
“Have you ever used a prostitute?”
Unsurprisingly, the client denied this strenuously.
“That’s interesting …”, said my evil ex-colleague, “… because for the oldest industry in the World, I’ve never met anyone who admitted to using them.”
Of course what he was trying to say is that what people say, isn’t always what they really think or do – especially when there is so much evidence to prove it if you’re just willing to look under some rocks – and while we didn’t win that particular argument with that particular client, it does highlight an important point that I believe is becoming even more difficult today.
It’s hard to find the truth.
I don’t mean that purely in terms of just exploring it – though that’s fucking tough – I mean it in terms of the client often being unwilling to accept it or, more specifically, admit it.
OK, so part of our job is to find a way to make that happen however sometimes – and it feels increasingly so – there’s a blinkered approach to discussing truth, where the corporately agreed narrative is more important than the facts.
There’s a bunch of reasons for this … job security, insecurity, a lack of corporate diversity – both in terms of culture, lifestyle and opinion – and an attitude where middle management believe they are only empowered to say ‘no’ … but fundamentally, we are entering a period where the biggest thing holding a brand back is their reluctance to know who, and what, their audience are really about.
Oh they know the general stuff.
How much they earn.
How much they buy.
What their family consists of.
But get to anything where you understand how this audience thinks or does stuff … and it’s more bland than a James Blunt album.
“They like spending time with their family”.
“They don’t like cleaning, but it makes them feel they’re being a good parent.”
“Safety and security are important for them”.
Nothing highlights this like the recent election results we’ve had.
Sure, some people saw the signs, but the vast majority – with their traditional, designed-for-convenient-answers methodologies, chose to ignore them – preferring to stick to the pre-agreed narrative. And given I heard this quote by Geoff Norcott recently noted …
“Voting conservative is like buying a James Blunt album. You know for a fact millions of people do it, but you never meet anyone who admits to it.”
… it seems things haven’t changed that much from Andy’s observation.
Though I’d argue talking about James Blunt is worse than talking about prostitues.
But then I would say that wouldn’t I.