The core function of marketing is to notice things about an audience of people that others don’t or won’t pay attention to. That’s hard for an audience as big as the US, which is a partial explanation for the protests and even the fiery riots.
In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell traces the antagonism-policing en vogue in most major US police departments to well-intentioned but heavily flawed public policy research conducted in the 1970s and 1990s. The research essentially OK’d the use of signals/patterns to determine whether someone under observation is up to no good.
But the core principle of the book, supported by ample research, is that we rarely have any clue whatsoever what other people, let alone strangers, are thinking and feeling. Even though we all believe otherwise. This is as true of KGB, MI5, and CIA operatives as it is of the town cop in Ferguson, Missouri.
But people love the role of a poker player, looking for tells. Gambling other people’s money, in this case.
Marketing, on the other hand, requires us never to assume we know what our audience is thinking – until they pay for it.
That’s why the central question for your business becomes, “what is your audience happy to pay you to do for them?”
Footnotes & Errata
- there are about 12,000 federal, state, county, and municipal police departments in total in the US, each independent from one another – but a handful of the largest municipal police forces (LAPD, NYPD, etc) account for the vast majority of police – and police misconduct