29. Let’s Lose the Word Consumer

Welcome to Episode 29 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you navigate the love/hate world of creativity & marketing.

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, where we’re here to talk about people. The people that make your job possible. The people you’re trying to reach. Some call them consumers, but that’s a bit dehumanizing. And makes it easier to dismiss them. To speak condescendingly to them. So let’s stop talking about them, and start talking about people. 10 Things to Keep in Mind About People:

  1. Contempt for Your Customer is a Cancer. Observe Them with Empathy and Without Judgement. Listen Hard to What They Say, and Believe What They Actually Do. — Amber Benson

Idiots! Morons! Inbreeds! Those are just some of the words I’ve used to describe people in focus groups. (And I’m afraid that I’ve used worse.) These are words I’ve heard outside of research sites as well. Creatives hate to be judged. They especially hate to be judged by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Especially people who don’t know creative. Then again, why should they? It’s our job, not theirs’. Maybe we need to find new ways to listen or listen harder. 

As I’ve said before, if you want to learn about lions, would you go to the zoo or to the Serengeti? Either way, they were invited to come. It’s not their fault if they’re not the guests we want or need. Ask your moderator or research facility to do better. And be a little better to your guests. Unreasonably losing respect for them, causes us to lose respect for ourselves.

  1. People Want a Feeling, not an Education. – Eugene Krasnopolsky

Don’t forget, we’re not thinking creatures that feel, we’re feeling creatures that think. Start at the heart and move towards the brain. And let’s never lecture the people that we’re trying to reach. We’re smarter and more creative than that.

  1. Nobody Really Cares About Advertising. So Respect Their Attention. Don’t Bore People or Shout at Them. Do Something Amazing that Moves Them.  

– George Moreira

     Again, let’s get over ourselves. There’s no obligation that people pay        

     attention to us. Show them respect, and they’re much more likely to show you 


  1. The Audience Can Either Applaud You, Boo You, or Ignore You. The First Two are Appropriate Responses. – Lee Clow, Advertising Legend, Chiat/Day

There’s a thin line between love and hate. Being ignored is the real measure that people don’t care about you or what you have to say. That said, it sucks being booed.

  1. People Don’t Read Ads. They Read What Interests Them and Sometimes that’s an Ad. – Howard Gossage, Another Advertising Legend

Howard Gossage was doing interactive advertising before there was such a thing. This San Francisco legend was a firm believer in grabbing people’s attention in new and exciting ways. To not only surprise them but to delight them. To demonstrate many of the fine tailoring points of Eagle Shirts, Gossage, included a “shirtkerchief” that you could attach to the button of your dress shirt to keep you clean or even blow your nose. It not only showed the high value of Eagle Shirts, but created high talk value as well. 

Howard also helped to create Earth Day!

This kind of wit and wisdom made Gossage a magnet not only for daring clients, but daring thinkers such as John Steinbeck, Marshall McCluhan, Buckminster FullerTom Wolfe and Stan Freberg. All who regularly frequented his office, which was a converted firehouse in the middle of San Francisco.

  1. Don’t Get Caught Up in Complex Data Points, Instead Observe Simple Human Behavior. – Prabha Sridhar

Numbers need to be humanized. That’s where you come in. Numbers will build a solid foundation, but human insights come from you analyzing those numbers. Seasoning in the intuitive nuances that will sink in and touch people. Move people. Making them choose and act. If you’re in Design then you know that your creative process has to be human-centric. For the people, of the people, by the people. Machines, at least at this point, can’t match that. So take those data points and start connecting the dots.

  1. Start with what People Actually Care About and Work Back from There. 

– Andrew Hovells

You have things that you care about. Your client has things they care about. But the only cares you should both give a damn about are those of the people you’re trying to touch. To keep the process on track, use your clients’ own words against them. Make them stick to the consumer rhetoric that they all espouse. More importantly, take the data points, verbatims and behaviors of these consumers I prefer to call people, and use them to remind everyone in your agency and at the client to guide creative development so the people everyone supposedly cares about to care about you! Is that too much to ask?

  1. If You Talked to People the Way Advertising Talks to People, They’d Punch You in the Face. – Vincent Largoza

So much dumbass-work out there that most of it just gets ignored. What a waste. Worse? All the work that is simply insulting to the people that it’s suppose to inspire. Have some respect for your audience and yourself. 

  1. Stop Asking People to Pay Attention to Your Brand. Start Doing Things Worth Paying Attention To. – Sally Hogshead

Some years ago Red Bull energy drink dropped a man out of the edge of space down to the earth below. Millions watched. Talk about an energy drink generating energy! I’m not usually one to fall for stunts, but in this case, I was in hook, line and sinker. Check it out online. It will grab your attention more than any words will. It will actually get you to feel something. Is that an ad? It sure as Hell is in my book.


First the Agency Gets Tired of the Idea, then the Client, and then the Public. (If a Good Idea is Working Year After Year, Don’t Change It Just Because You Want Something Shiny and New.)    – Parker Mason

We don’t create things to amuse ourselves. At least we shouldn’t. We work to inspire others. Shift their perceptions. Change their behaviors. Keep that in mind when you get the notion to kill something before its lifespan calls for it die. However, always keep in mind how to evolve a successful platform or campaign. That sense of timing is a gift in and of itself. When Wade Alger guided the Geico work, he and his team were masterful in knowing when to change things up. Sometimes dropping an spot in a strong campaign to see if it had any legs. 

Let’s Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m your host, Wegs. Before we close out, let’s introduce one more thought on the people who make our jobs possible:

For a supposedly “consumer-centric” industry, we seem to focus on ourselves a lot. Hell, that’s what this podcast does. And there’s a time and place for that, but maybe because we refer to people as “consumers”, our business has lost a little humanity. How about saying our “prospects”, our “match” or simply “people”.

Well, that about wraps up our 29th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck. 29 clucking episodes. Wow! Thank you!

Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, and thanks again for listening in. Until next time, read the full transcripts to this and every other episode on NavigatingTheFustercluck.com. Remember, we’re all in this together, so thanks for hanging in there for the people you’re trying to inspire, entertain and move. Here’s to them. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.