It’s a fine line between insight and stereotype. The teen multi-tasks. Mom is busy. Dad just doesn’t get it. A thousand little generalizations that appear again and again in television commercials and radio spots, banner ads and microsites. The complexity of humanity ignored based upon 57% of something in an internet survey somewhere.
The way we make this advertising thing happen doesn’t work like it should. Advertising tools most often serve these generalizations and stereotypes rather than any real knowledge. The creative process is a dice roll. Most market research is CYA-driven rather than providing real understanding to those who could do the most with it.
Which brings me to novelist Chimamanda Adichie and her Ted Talk “The Danger of the Single Story,” in which she explores her misunderstandings and being misunderstood based upon the faulty stereotype, what she calls the single story.
Morgan Gerard also touches on this in his post – Idioms and Insights.
Idioms are an anathema to innovation. They fuse organizations to assumptions, cultural mythologies and fossilized ways of seeing and talking about themselves, their business and, more importantly, their consumers.
Case in point: the consumer research game. Virtually every market research department in every major organization is founded on an idiomatic understanding of consumers. Psychographic caricatures of actual humans, like the Active Mom, have become business idioms used to simplify and, more importantly, agree on the polysemy of what are lived preferences, behaviors, opinions, attitudes and needs rather than PowerPoint descriptions such as, “Mary is a successful real estate agent who struggles to balance taking care of her three kids with her love of pilates and desire to eat healthier breakfast bars.”
We simply aren’t doing enough, usually choosing to make complexity dumb rather than finding new ways to inspire understanding.
And frankly the only way to get from where we are now to where we need to be is by shifting our mindset from observation to immersion, from research as a department to research as a duty, from creative briefs or briefings, to mixing and shuffling the creators with the audience before, during and after, not simply as a means to vet ideas but to provide better inputs, learnings, and knowledge. This is how we’ll move beyond the single stories and single servings to something a bit more meaningful.