Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breaking the Law...of averages

Hear the one about the statistician who drowned trying to walk across the river because he determined the water was, on average, only 3 feet deep?

It's a humorous little example of how trusting averages can be dangerous to your health. Here are some other averages...ask yourself if this is you. You are 5'6" tall, you weigh 176 pounds, and you make $42,028 per year

So what?

Ok, so there is no way you are all three, exactly, right? For one thing, we know that there are easy filters around gender that change these averages. And as marketers, we also know that there are numerous other filters we can finesse--like zip or fips codes, age, like...well, like a personality type?

However a marketer might filter it, we're still just toying with what's average so we can speak in an average way. An average 20-something votes for Obama, uses an iPhone, and hooks up with friends using Facebook. But what about the exceptions? Do we right them off as outliers? What if the outliers become the rule?

By dealing primarily in averages, do we run the risk of missing what's extraordinary about each and everyone of us?

As marketers, we've always been keen to find the insights that lead to delight. But perhaps we've been a little too delighted with our own views of what, it turns out, is merely average. Average spots appealing to average instincts on average channels used average amounts of time.

But how are we to go all Lake Wobegon and make every marketer above average? The good news is simple: treat people like a person and the averages disappear.

Treating someone like a person is requires only three basic things:

1. Treat people as individuals...people are only a member of a group when they decide they are a member of a group. People don't usually define themselves primarily by your brand. And if they do for the moment, it's because they decided so.

2. Listen to what individuals have to say...Listening is a listen, you can't be doing all the talking. Of course, listening sometimes starts by asking a question, but it ends when you decide you don't want to hear what's being said. Deciding not to listen, though, doesn't mean the conversation ends, it only means you won't be part of it.

3. Trust people...yes, we're all flawed, but if you can't trust in people then you can hardly expect people to trust you. From the call center operator to the salesperson to the executive earned is trust that must be repayed. Trust expected is an opportunity for trust to be earned.

The technical tools at our disposal enable each of us to engage people as individuals on an unprecedented scale. From email to Facebook to instant messaging to 800 numbers, it's not the tools we wield that do the marketing but the marketers that use them in an unaveraged way.

For a decidedly unaverage version of leather-clad metal odes to breaking the law, check it:

No comments:

Post a Comment