Mcgarrybowen planner: why I’m putting a ‘consumer’ swear jar in the office

As the event draws to a close, Michael McCourt, a strategic planner at Mcgarrybowen, shares one of his biggest learnings from the week with LIVE@AdvertisingWeek.

He writes: “Sir Martin Sorrell echoed David Ogilvy’s aphorism; stating that the ‘consumer is not a moron’ and that we ‘do not credit the consumer with enough common sense’. I (regrettably) agree, but I also believe that one word in this statement is part of the problem – consumer.

We are too often too far removed from the people that really matter to our client’s business; to the customers that actually invest (both financially and emotionally) in the brands our work seeks to support. We talk about ‘consumers’, ‘audience’, ‘data points’ and (cue an inevitable cringe) ‘targets’; words that distance ourselves from the people (real people) we are trying to reach, inspire, influence, entertain and / or engage.

This might seem like an insignificant semantic point. However, we all know that language affects perception.

We use this to our advantage everyday, but in the case of the word ‘consumer’ we use it to our detriment.

We are falling for our own trick.

The use of this word alters our perception of the people that matter most. It leads us in to a false sense of security and in to the land of mythical thinking.

This is a wondrous place where everyone, everywhere gives a damn about your brand; where they want to get involved and join the conversation; where people love you (or have a perfectly rational reason for not doing so) and where they will, ultimately, purchase your product after you tell them this one awesome thing that makes you (and only you) truly unique.

I want to leave this land of mythical thinking (and never return).

I want to get back to reality; where people can still grow to love your brand and purchase your product, but only when we treat them with the respect they deserve; only when we treat them like people (real people).

For me, this starts with one simple, semantic shift; replacing those aforementioned words with the only one that really matters – people.

I might even put a ‘consumer’ swear jar in the office and, well, I hope that you’ll join me.”