Nearly every marketing course or guide will strongly suggest that any successful campaign needs to understand its audience. Today, there are huge amounts of data to provide insights into any audience and not just broad groups but also into very specific types of individuals. All of this is very illuminating and helps inform the marketing professional.
At SRF, we also like to inject empathy and humility into our processes to help us appreciate what our clients’ customers might be thinking and feeling. Recent experiments with sentiment algorithms have not yet convinced us that we can leave all the interpretation of data to artificial intelligence. This means employing some mental agility and trying to think from another person’s perspective.
The famous quote “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” is a straightforward plea for empathy. Although this had been thought to originate from Native Americans sayings, the latest thinking is that it should be attributed to a poem by Mary T. Lathrap, entitled Walk a Mile in His Moccasins. The phrase is most often used when trying to understand behaviour of ourselves or others.
We act not just based on what we understand through facts and figures but also through opinions and value judgements of our own. One of the most compelling reasons for the rise of story-telling is that people on average are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a fact. The combination of emotions and data when woven into a tale has been and remains a powerful tool for influencing.
So, when we start to take a look from another person’s perspective, it can be very useful to think what stories do they like, which emotions are likely to be felt and how will that person react. Older people can often provide some guidance, as they will have experienced more of other people’s reactions but the switch from your own prejudices can require mental strength and flexibility.
The exact methodology can be varied to suit but an excellent starting point is to recognise your own perspective and then look to move gradually further and further away. There is a school of thought which promotes ‘systems thinking’ defined by Martin Sandbrook as ‘For me, systems thinking is a way of being. It involves a way of seeing or interpreting the world through thought and feeling. It is an attitude of open-ness, of inquiry, of looking from many perspectives, inner and outer, of holding, or trying to hold, an awareness of my own beliefs and assumptions.’
Listening to others, reading what people post and write, and spending time visiting your audience all help to build up a model for you to experience different perspectives.
Once you have developed the ability to see from a different perspective, then the fun can really start and revolutionary ideas can be tested, rather than simply repeating what worked previously. It is this type of bravery which we explore more in our next blog post.