Hey, You! Old What's-Your-Face ...

Be Careful What You Call People

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Maureen Hall Maureen Hall
I believe that the peel-and-stick name tag was invented for people like me because I can't remember names to save my life. It's not that I think someone's name isn't significant -- after all, you get your name soon as you enter this world and it follows you out, usually etched into a giant rock, which is basically the last name tag you'll never wear.

You'd think I'd be great at labeling people and things since it's so commonplace in advertising. "You, client." "Me, agency." "This, product." The hard part is when it gets down to identifying the consumer, mainly because I struggle with embracing all that the old-fashion term "consumer" signifies, i.e., that our target audience is a faceless mass holding credit cards at the ready. And while this is an image that would make any client salivate, we believe that in order to create ads that really talk to someone (rather than at them), we must see past mere buying behavior and demographic data (age, income, occupation) and focus more on psychographic observations that tap into people's hopes, dreams and beliefs.

People know when they're being sold to and they don't like it. But that's the American way isn't it, to profit from one's neighbors? But the lemonade stand of today will look very different with the new Millennials on the march. They're being defined as the strongest socially-conscious generation to date; they look for brands with a clear set of values, not ones that just want profit. This signals to me that the word "consumers" should be replaced with the word "people." And the criteria to win an EFFIE or a B2B CEBA award in the future will not be measured in CHA-CHING only. We have to expand our results benchmarks to also include those things our PR brethren have been measuring for years: changes in behavior, increases in brand awareness and shifts in attitude.

Maybe it was Procter & Gamble Global CMO, Jim Stengel's time spent as a journalist that taught him how to relate so well with people, but a while back he said, "Engagement is the act of listening, sharing, creating a dialogue. It is not a one-way conversation which we control." These thoughts have stuck with me as I've sat in meetings flipping through client decks full of short-term buyer-frequency data that clients have used to justify going to market. But what about after the initial purchase? Do we want them forgetting our brand as they "consume" something else?

The companies who refuse to let go of people's hearts and minds, and are eager to convert them into brand believers even if they never make another purchase with them again, are the companies whose brands have soul, brands such as Dove, Costco and Google. A brand's soul lives in its community of believers, and although it's not controlled at the center, the center feeds off something more precious than profit -- a believer's loyalty and testimony -- making the marketer, in the end, the ultimate wearer of the name tag, "consumer."
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