What the response to Trump tells us about marketers

Zoe Harris, group marketing director and head of invention at Trinity Mirror Solutions
Zoe Harris, group marketing director and head of invention at Trinity Mirror Solutions

To understand why Trump won, think stock car racing, says the group marketing director and head of invention at Trinity Mirror Solutions.

As articles abound on what we can learn from Trump’s victory, what I have been most fascinated by is the response to the result from us individuals in the industry.

Yet again, our Soho media bubble played a blinder and made it okay for us to be totally astonished/angry/horrified – with no apparent sense of what that response said about us and our profession.

We pride ourselves on our understanding of people; what they believe, what they feel, what makes them tick. We examine behaviours, we research cultural influences, we predict future trends.

And yet we were totally gobsmacked at the result.

What does that say about us?

I believe our collective reaction highlights how far removed we can be from the very target audiences we claim to know and respect (and love?) The very consumers we are paid to ‘be the voice of’ in our businesses.

And we analysed the results in the bubble of our own views – happy to declare millions of people sexist, racist or stupid.

How good are we really at putting ourselves in the shoes – or indeed ‘inside the skins’ – of people outside of our own circles? How open are we to really interpreting what is happening beyond our own narrow horizon? And what does that mean for our ability to communicate and connect with people who are not like us?

My colleague, Jason Beattie, the head of politics on The Daily Mirror, had the most enlightening explanation for it.

He said to understand the US election result, all you had to do is think of America’s favourite spectator sport.

Basketball?

No.

Baseball?

No.

American Football?

No.

Ice Hockey then?!

No.

The answer?

...

...

Nascar. Stock car racing!

And, when you imagine that, suddenly the result makes more sense.

A huge group of people who consider themselves ignored and who feel – and who are – a million miles away from everything that Hillary Clinton represents.

A group tired with not having their voices heard, their concerns listened to, their views taken seriously, their right to vote for whomever they like respected.

And who have had enough. And who I am sure, despite reservations, used their democratic right to make a stand and demand change.

Whether Trump is able to deliver that change is, for the purposes of this piece, beside the point.

What we are hearing from Brexit, from the US and (as the Mirror team predicts) from across Europe over the next few months is a rebellion against the establishment. A peaceful yet defiant uprising against the people, corporations and institutions that have ruled us and influenced us without question for so long.

Our work in understanding the modern mass market (Modal Britain as we call them at Trinity Mirror Solutions), particularly outside of London, through our network of regional newsbrands and journalists up and down the country, identified a huge cultural shift that has taken place in the last decade. Driven by digital democratisation, newfound lifestyle aspirations and a sense of expectation from the hugely increased graduate numbers, Modal Britain is demanding its right to be heard.

For brands, it is important to listen and to respond, so as not to be tarred as a global corporation, part of the establishment and far-removed from ordinary life and the things that matter.

Only by taking time to bust out of our bubble will we be able to hear and respond to this audience, and be able to continue to assert our position as the rightful owner of the voice of the consumer in our businesses.

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