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Perspective is Everything

I recently watched a Ted Talk called ‘Perspective is everything’ with Rory Sutherland. It’s a really interesting talk and is definitely worth a watch, however it was the title of the film that really caught my attention. ‘Perspective is everything’ is a statement that seems particularly relevant to the industry we work in, and is something we marketers would do well to remember.  

We now work in a world where unlimited information is available online, and reams of rich data are just a mouse click away. Whilst this access to knowledge is undoubtedly useful and valuable, particularly to Planners, it also means we sometimes make lazy assumptions and presume we understand the bigger picture. As an industry I fear we can become inward facing, and rely too heavily on our instinct when formulating a point of view.

Although access to endless online data may give us our audience’s name, economic status and even where they live, in terms of tangible human insight, does it really help us understand them and their relationship with our brand or product? Whether we’re targeting wealthy retirees or young male cider drinkers, our ability to walk in someone else’s shoes is tested daily. I believe it’s our job as Planners to develop a deep understanding of our consumers, and to empathise with them on an emotional level – which can become difficult when we only resort to online data and resources, or tread the dangerous path of assumption.

At Haygarth, we engage with our audience first hand and make the effort to talk to real people in real situations. One of the ways we can do this is by holding focus groups, or as we call them ‘Empathy Labs’, right here in SW19. These give us so many advantages in terms of understanding our audience, and by taking a more active role in some recently I was able to see for myself just how beneficial they are in the following areas:

Driving discussion

One of the most obvious, yet perhaps most important, advantages of focus groups is the ability to sit in a room with real people and have a conversation. It may sound simple, but we often take for granted the power of discussion. When the conversation begins to flow naturally, and participants share and even challenge each other’s point of view – that’s when we gain real insight and perspective, allowing us to form a more rounded understanding of our consumers and ultimately empathise with them.

Honest opinions

Empathy Labs are an opportunity for people to tell us how they really feel about a certain topic. The intimate nature of a Lab allows participants to feel comfortable expressing themselves and giving their honest, truthful opinion. It means we can probe participants on specific points they make – something we can’t do on standard surveys or questionnaires. This adds to our depth of understanding and begins to paint a picture of how this particular audience views the world.

Getting clarification

Whilst gaining new insights and knowledge is crucial, there are times when Empathy Labs can be useful in confirming one of our own hypothesis. I like to think that we’ll already have some level of empathy with the consumers before conducting a lab, and therefore have developed thoughts and propositions of our own. Sometimes we are right, and sometimes we are wrong, but either way it’s important to get clarification to steer the direction of our strategy and creative work.

Creative direction

Empathy Labs offer a brilliant opportunity to test our creative work with the right audience. How consumers respond to our ideas is the biggest challenge in our industry, but one that is easily overlooked. Ultimately we want our work to resonate with consumers, to engage them and persuade them to choose a particular brand over others. If the creative ends up becoming overly complex or un-relatable, then we have a greater chance of losing our consumers’ attention along the way. Even if we like the work, it’s the consumer that we need to please, which is why it’s increasingly important to understand them and their mind-set. Having the chance to showcase our ideas in an Empathy Lab is always eye opening, and can really inform us in the next stages of our creativity.

Without exception, Haygarth’s best work has stemmed from time spent getting to know our audience really well. Empathy Labs are just one way we delve into the minds of others to better understand their perspective. Techniques such as this have to be something we strive to do consistently – as consumers’ mindsets become more and more complex, our need to walk in their shoes is more important than ever.

Have a think about your own audience and how you talk to them – when was the last time you saw the world from their side?

Written by Ella Rule
Junior Planner