Breaking out of the marketing bubble

by Nic Aldren /

The findings from the recent Trinity Mirror report on ‘why we shouldn’t trust our gut instincts’, make for enlightening reading. From life experiences and education, to motivations, values and cultural outlook, the paper reveals that, as a group, agency folks’ social and economic experience are fundamentally different from those of the consumers that marketers target on a daily basis.

It’s not just about demographics though, the paper reveals that the marketing and advertising industry has ‘a different unconscious thinking style’ to the modern mainstream consumer. Put simply, and this applies equally to b2b and b2c, we marketers see, experience and interpret the world very differently to the people we’re trying to influence. And most of the time, we don’t even realise we’re doing it.

Key differences cited in the report included agency employees’ values being driven by hedonism, achievement and power, whereas the mainstream consumer is driven by security, conformity and tradition. The two groups’ views on ‘fairness’ also differed, along with psychological variances on the influence of social cues and context. Agency folks are more analytical in their thinking style, focusing on the individual and filtering out contextual cues, however mainstream consumers tend to think more holistically, placing more emphasis on community and social relations.

While the paper doesn’t advocate reimagining yourself – going back to ‘the block’ like JLo, or getting close to ‘common people’ over a rum and Coca Cola á la Pulp – it rightly says that as marketers we need to accept that both our life context and exposure to the marketing bubble clouds our judgement and decisions.

Closing the gap

So, aside from acknowledging this divergence, what can you do to avoid overlaying your own experiences and values onto those of your target customers? At BDB, we’re big advocates of talking to customers – whether in the context of brand positioning and messaging, or for user experience in a digital environment.

Sounds simple, right? And it is in principle, but there’s a real art to teasing out people’s true thoughts, motivations and needs – getting to the heart of what makes them tick, and turning that into insight(s) that can inform brands and marketing plans. Plus, getting someone outside of your own organisation to ask the questions, ensures you can side-step historical perceptions, politics, bias and assumptions.

And finally, just be wary of sample size; in the b2b industry, customer numbers can often be fairly small, so try to ensure you get as broad a scope of customer voices as you can. Otherwise, you risk placing too much onus on one or two customers’ needs and communication preferences that could bias your marketing in a new way.

Talk to us if you want to close the gap and make a difference in your world and your customers’ world.

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