Close your eyes. (But actually, don’t close your eyes because this isn’t an audio clip.)
Once upon a time, there was a wise, old king living in a glorious kingdom. He ruled with his beautiful queen, had a handsome prince waiting to take his place, and a beautiful princess who had many suitors. All of his subjects loved him because he was fair and just. They all lived happily ever after.
Now, open your eyes. Describe what the king looked like. What did his family look like? His subjects? Where was his kingdom?
It’s highly likely that you imagined the king in a very specific way. Maybe you imagined a grand ‘ol white king with gray hair and a twinkle in his blue eyes. Perhaps you imagined a beautiful blonde princess and a handsome prince with sandy hair and hazel eyes. What does it mean when our imagination of a king and queen is exclusively defined by Disney?
There is something broken about the way we approach marketing.
The problem with traditional marketing is that we market to people using extremely limited perspectives. We approach marketing using generalizations, assumptions, and attitudes that have been passed down for eons regardless of whether or not they are actually reflective of our current society.
This is why no one on Nivea’s marketing team batted an eye at the company’s ‘White is Purity’ ad before they hit print – White is purity after all, right? This is how Team Budweiser saw no inherent flaw with an alcohol company pushing the tagline that its beverages are “removing no from your vocabulary.” It’s how dozens upon dozens of ads and campaigns are created that miss their mark at the very least, and oftentimes at its worst are completely offensive to large sections of our population.
Expand your exemplars.
If you’re behind the wheel of a brand that is building a more inclusive, reflective community (friend to friend, you should be), how do you authentically connect and engage with an audience who you do not understand?
How do you attempt to get someone to buy your widget — no matter how awesome your widget is — if you are presenting them with a perspective that runs counter to their lived experience? Or worse, doesn’t even take into consideration their lived experience in the first place?
“I believe we humans want to be seen, be heard, be known, make meaning in our lives, and be remembered — that human connection is highly valued — rather than be dismissed, ignored, analyzed like you’re being bludgeoned. I believe this holds in all relationships including business.” – Elizabeth Crouch
It’s time, as Abe said in his SXSW presentation, to expand our exemplars.
Don’t go after the easy win, the low hanging fruit. Stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. And for Pete’s sake, stop relying on demographics alone to market your brand.
Challenge yourself to think outside of your usual perspective. Better yet, hire people with a vast array of perspectives to help expand the mind of your brand. Remember, that behind every campaign and every metric and every dollar bill you make is a human being who is looking to be seen, to be heard, and to make a real connection.
I want to live in a world where I see myself in marketing and media and advertising. I want to live in a world where I’m not a second thought, but where my experiences are centered. I want to live in a world where brands are not targeting me because of my demographics or to check off a box, but rather because they see me and want to make meaning in my life.
This is the world that Wylie & Co. and its clients are moving towards, as brands become more socially aware and begin working to build a greater human connection with their communities. We can create this new world of marketing together. Let’s connect.