“‘What does the fat lady sitting in Nebraska think?’ was my former creative director’s favorite question to get into the head of the consumer,” a colleague shared with me. And that prevalent view of a person or collection of people is more common in advertising today than you’d think so I’ll use the “collective We” in framing the attititudes and language that perpetuate this view.

 We talk about people as our targets. We refer to “fly-over” states in the heartland too common to visit but plenty ripe for buying our client’s products and services. Retailers and the hospitality industry might refer to guests by body parts: “butts in seats,” “guts in seats,” “share of throat,” “foot traffic.”

Our language may be expedient and colorful for categorizing consumer segments, but it works against us when it moves beyond research and into client marketing and agency activation teams. You wouldn’t treat family, friends or employers for which you wish to work this way, so I believe we need to extend greater respect to our consumers. Beyond being good form, here are two business drivers to consider for adopting a more respectful approach:

  1. When you put a person or segment in a box, it loses interest and you are less likely to ask the deeper questions to devine more intimate Insights that can unlock real growth
  2. The Consumer is Driving. In case you missed Time’s “person of the year”–a collective You–and Advertising Age’s “Agency of the Year“–the consumer–the person you’re disrespecting is writing your future paychecks

There are a lot of ways to respect your customer/consumer, and nomenclature is one of the easiest first steps in that orientation.


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