Burst Your Bubble

"Research shows as many as 89% of consumers express no connection to the brands they buy."

Watching some TV news recently, which is a little like drinking from a fire hose these days, I heard a pundit share an interesting insight. He began by regaling viewers with a tribute to his modest, salty-earth upbringing. He was comfortable enough in his own skin to admit he had a sense of pride about this; he believed it kept him grounded, humble, and in touch with what "regular" people (his words) were thinking and feeling. What he discovered - post-election - was a glaring contradiction: he was, in reality, ensconced in a sociological bubble. His upscale neighborhood, his well-funded church, his successful friends, his privileged kids, etc. While he prided himself on his connection, intellectually if not actually, to the middle/working-class mainstream, he had lost touch.

Understandable. It's easy to become insulated. And if, like me, you work in a field that depends on connecting with The Masses/Mainstream America, a field like, say, advertising (Ah, finally, he gets to the point) this bubble can be more like a wall.

As I see it, there are two concerns.

One. Thinking that everyone who might be exposed to your work is as intellectually invested in it as you and your colleagues are; that they will appreciate that literature reference, the ironic pun, the derivative retro graphic treatment. They aren't, and they won't.

Two. Thinking that your audience experiences the world as you do.

The way to avoid point one is easy: clarity of communication. The audience will do some interpretive work - it helps them own and become part of the brand - but only to a point. They've got a lot going on, and most of it doesn't involve what you have to say. Don't get too cute.

Overcoming point two is more challenging. Because we are, in many ways, "the elite" that so many love to hate these days. (Despite your particular politics, by the way. This isn't about party affiliation, it's about the mundane, day-in-and-day-out stuff.) Most of us in the business of marketing/advertising are fortunate. We work with our minds instead of our backs, we make a decent living, and we enjoy exposure to creative pursuits and intellectual endeavor. We're pop culture junkies and technology snobs. It's interesting, intellectually stimulating stuff.  Nothing wrong with any of that. Unless it blinds us to this fact: we are a minority.

Everyday we embark on our missions to connect with the target audience, have them emotionally engage with Brand X, convince them that said Brand "gets" them, is "there" for them, loves them, etc. But, as indicated by the 89% number above, it doesn't appear to be working.

If I may. Three things.

Change your behavior. If you drive to work, take the bus. Attend a Demolition Derby instead of a gallery opening. Go see the latest box office smash hit instead of the art house flick. Visit a (different) church. Watch some daytime TV. And, by the way, foreswear irony during this exercise.

Remind yourself - constantly - whom you're doing the work for. Hint: It's not your colleagues. For example, when you think of annual household income of $50K for a family of four, really think about what that means. Do the friggin' math. Empathy, baby. Also: resist the allure of the award shows (I know, that one hurts).

Don't be condescending. The most recent election is instructive. People who aren't like you don't necessarily want to be you. Embrace their reality. You'll be able to do a better job of relating to/connecting with, and, dare I say, selling to, that person, if your dialogue is straight-on level, not descending from above.

Nothing new here. We all try to get into the heads of our prospective consumer. Just something to keep in mind, especially in these...interesting times. Burst your bubble. It can be a fascinating and satisfying experience. Might even make you a more well rounded person. And, not incidentally, your work will be better for it.