We are all social theorists, bit-part sociologists and partial to making interpretations of our surroundings. The grand drama that plays out on our day to day lives is open to interpretation and we constantly, subconsciously and consciously, extrapolate and construct meaning from everyday occurrences. As marketers, we work with similar tools as sociologists. Market research, surveys and human data collection are mutually useful to both endeavours and a functional understanding of society at large, as well as the individuals within it, is something that both practises strive to uncover; albeit for different purposes. Although psychology may have dominion over popular modern day human science, can Sociologists help inform us as to the way we should approach our marketing plans?
We live in an age of hyper-individualism and as marketers we are not shy to this fact. Ad-Technology is constantly striving to deliver closer and more meaningful relationships between brands and their consumers. Individualism is a truly psychological argument, however Sociology teaches us another, equally lucrative, targeting methodology.
Sociology argues that without the reciprocity of human contact, individuality is rendered obsolete. Sociologists argue that society shapes the individual and their behaviour. Indulging this, we can agree with Sociologists that what works for an individual is what exists within their culture.
For advertisers, It can be argued that targeting an individual and suggesting that they are involved within a wider relevant culture is in most cases more powerful than targeting an individual and trying to build a personal one to one relationship between them and the brand. The 16 year old schoolkid wants the latest phone as their cultural circle, limited as it may be, dictates that a social hierarchy exists based on mobile phone ownership. They want a phone because their society tells them that they want a phone.
We must be sensitive to the fact that the pressure to conform to one’s societies norms has a deep-seated impact on the way one interacts with brands, and use this to aid the relevance of our marketing strategies. Therein lies an opportunity to create social affinity, as opposed to brand relevance. This is by no means new ground and major brands have achieved true social affinity, but in the race for hyper-relevance in advertising it is always worth remembering the place and power of society on all that we do.
(Photo – Eli Woodbine, Canada, 2016)