I was at an excellent Future Foundation conference this week. You don't usually say that about trends companies, but this one bases their stuff on data and is good at proper digging. And it's more about what people care about, rather than what's cool.
Come to think about it, that's a decent descriptor to good planning, but anyway.
One of the things they raised was the gap between between the 'social self' and the real self. Cut the pretention of that statement and you get into the fact people will often tell you what they think is socially acceptable, rather than how they actually feel or think. Now that social media is making lots of people create a 'better version of me' alter ego, not only does it mean social medai gurus should watch out spouting 'free research' and listening exercises as reliable, it points to something fundamental.
You need to work out if your targeting someone's self image or the real thing. And sometimes you're best resolving the tension between both.
For example, most people in the UK agree they're not influenced by celebrities. Many gurus will tell you it's all about peer to peer these days (the social graph if you're a jargon idiot). But success of the Mail Online (how big us Kim Kardashian's but today?) suggests otherwise, as does the continued success of celebrity endorsed brands. We're fascinated by celebrities, we just don't want to admit it.
So do you omit celebrity endorsement and make a big thing of it? Targeting the social self? Do you target the reality and use celebrity - but make it relevant and even ironic to make it socially acceptable?
Just as the myth that the British are getting angry and we're facing a generation war as young people realise baby boomers have left them with nothing. When actually, young people seem to be less bothered and are knuckling down and working harder. Or are they? Are they saying this but really waiting for a catalyst to get angry?
Pepsi with it's 'Live for Now' position is very much about 'Safe Rebellion' but not many brands are owning the idea of hard work and finding a way to make it cool - or even rebellious to make it work for both.
Take the 'Naked Citizen'. Right now in the UK we agree 'were on our own' and personal responsibility is on the up as the accepted social norm.
But not only do I have a hunch this is more lip service, there will be a gap between cultural pressure to control your own life and the realities of the skills and confidence of real people out there. Big chance to provide real help -or resolve tension to make us feel good, to provide an outlet.
Just Do It is a classic example of how this might work.
This really matters. Advertising really deals with how you feel about a brand, it creates memory structures that make the brand easy to buy. The long term effect of this lasts longer than the 'messaging' that quickly gets forgotten.
So, when you think about how you want to make people feel, ask yourself which person you're trying to get a response from. The real person, or the one they want people to see. Ideally, find a way to deal with both and resolve the tension between cultural pressures and the pressures of everyday life.