Over the summer, I was able to experience something I never have before: a NASCAR race at Michigan’s International Speedway.
Admittedly, I’m more NPR than NASCAR. So my initial reaction to a group text of this suggested guys trip wasn’t an instant, emoji-filled reply. But after some thought—and, okay, a few beers—I decided to check this off the bucket list. (Well, add it to the bucket list, then check it off. You get it.)
I must admit, the experience was pretty eye opening. Yes, we had a great time—although it took 2 days for my hearing to return—but I quickly realized that this wasn’t a group of people who I typically rub elbows with. Here was an audience that I knew almost nothing about.
And that was a really great thing.
Every day, advertisers are tasked with talking to people from all walks of life in relevant and genuine ways. But how can we do that if we’re always looking at and talking to people, well, just like us? Sure, we get briefs. And audience segmentation studies full of “Protective Smotherers” or “Fix Everything Randys.” And we’ll follow their blogs, websites, and influencers. But there’s no substitute for getting out there to walk, talk, and eat like our audience before we have the audacity to try to speak to them, or more importantly, to speak like them.
What’s the consequence of missing this step? Take Victoria’s Secret—who should have interacted with some regular women before launching its “perfect body” line starring only size 0 models. (Something Dove never ignores.) Or look at Huggies’s “Dad tested” campaign that depicts fathers as fumbling idiots—completely ignoring the fact that being a good dad in 2016 is straight up dank.
Hey, this isn’t new advice. Jack Foster’s book How to Get Ideas has an entire chapter imploring you to “Get More Inputs.”
And Commandment #3 from Ogilvy on Advertising demands you get out there and ethnography the heck out of your consumers: “Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore the signs of the enemy.”
Now pair that with Commandment #5: “Don’t address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.” Preach, Dave.
It’s up to us to go beyond the brief. To surf beyond the Internet. To shop amongst the Moms, run with the tough mudders, and scream with the NASCAR fans. (Just be sure to bring earplugs.)
Have a great, “get out there” day, everybody.
-Your friends at Brokaw
P.S. Check out the short film I created documenting my encounter with Danica Patrick at the NASCAR event. The end makes it worth watching all the way through, I promise!