The More Things Change …

… the more they stay the same. Or so the saying goes. And yet, we marketers tend to prefer change over sameness. Is this tendency a help or a hindrance? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Our favourite marketing-related article in recent months comes from Harry Guild and Dean Matthewson over at BBH Labs. The gist: we marketers are so enamoured with change that we neglect things that stay the same—missing all kinds of opportunities as a result.
  • Guild and Matthewson back their point up by trolling through two decades of TGI consumer data.
  • This long-running survey regularly asks the British public for their stance on hundreds of statements, from the personal to the political.
  • In the twenty years since the turn of millennium, opinions on most of these topics (74% to be exact) have shifted by less than 10 measly percentage points.
  • And yet, most of the charts in the average marketing deck look more like this.
  • It’s not just charts. We marketers are also very fond of focusing on supposed differences between generations.
  • So why the disconnect? The most obvious answer: change creates an urgent need for action, which makes it a fantastic sales tool.
  • There’s truth there, but we think there’s more to it. We marketers are naturally optimistic.
  • And naturally curious.
  • Most of us dream of a better world, where the worst aspects of human nature can be overcome.
  • And so our curious, optimistic minds are drawn to interesting new ideas—like moths to flames.
  • These instincts often serve us well. But not always.
  • According to Guild and Matthewson, “boring” charts showing a lack of change “indicate an unchanging truth about the consumer or market. And that is something you can build a brand upon.”
  • So next time you’re pulling together insights to inform your strategy, don’t hesitate to bring your optimism and curiosity to the table. Just be sure to balance them out with the immortal words of Bill Bernbach.
Issue #130
Oct 31, 2021

Further Reading