I absolutely love reading Seth Godin’s daily blogs because quite often, the day’s focus is applicable in many ways to something that I’ve been working to better understand. Take for example, his blog from this past Saturday, May 12th – in this blog he talks about naming items and people as a way to engage with the public. He points out that there are times that we misname people, which can leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, who has ever been the victim of a misnaming.
This blog reminded me of a conversation that I have with myself whenever I or a client uses the word “consumer”. As a marketer, the word consumer is marketing speak for anyone buying, using, retweeting, reposting someone else’s product, thought, announcement and so on. We are all consumers of one thing or another. Yet the word, consumer just doesn’t sit well with me. Rather the picture I have in my head, whenever I hear this word is of an overweight and highly unconscious being. Yet, perhaps that’s what we’ve become?! In our society that runs on the buying/selling of products and ideas, how else would you define our actions?! What does the word, consumer, mean to you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here is the full Seth Godin article:
“Over there, by the fire, is that a stick or a snake?”
It turns out that humans have been naming things for a long time. If we know that this is a cheetah, or a grapefruit, we can make intelligent decisions on how to deal with it.
Lately, though, we’ve been naming more than things. Now we classify ideas and opportunities as well.
Getting smart about naming is at the heart of marketing. Calling every single person a ‘customer’, for example, is hardly a nuanced way of engaging with the public. Salespeople are especially nuanced at this, but often make mistakes as well. Car salesman are notorious for misnaming women who walk in (spouse instead of primary decision maker).
As an investor, are you misnaming the businesses you look at, mistaking a cliff business for a bootstrappable idea? Dozens of book editors misnamed Harry Potter at first glance, labeling it a ‘loser from the slush pile’ instead of the most profitable book they were ever offered.
Job interviews are nothing but sessions where we try to put a name on a stranger looking for employment. Is she a superstar in the making or someone we ought to avoid?
Most of all, are you misnaming opportunities and calling them risks instead?
When you are isolated or if the world is stable, your need to name new things goes down, and the world might feel safer as a result. Most of us don’t live in that world, so our ability to name things becomes critical.
Just because we’re not good at it doesn’t mean it’s not important.”