As an industry, we spend billions of pounds and countless hours talking to different audiences. But how long do we spend listening?

Listening to people isn’t just the remit of a focus group. By leaning in to listen, we can all help brands make more powerful connections with culture and customers.

Brands optimise messages; agencies use mass channels to reach as many people as possible with each message. Even social media, once heralded as a platform for dialogue, increasingly has broadcast only formats, such as Instagram stories, where users can’t comment back.

The wealth of datapoints makes it easy to think we know what’s going on with customers. Digesting sales metrics, brand trackers and digital activity reports tell us what has happened to a brand. They provide incredibly useful direction of how to amend, optimise and evaluate our campaigns.

But rarely does data tell us why something has happened: at best, it provides a hypothesis. Often, the best insights aren’t found in existing information, however much we look. Focussing solely on available data you become a bit like a drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost, “because”, he says “that’s where the light is”.

This is why listening matters. Opening our frame of reference opens us up to new stimulus.

Focus groups illuminate audience’s attitudes in surprising and directive ways. The multi-award winning “This Girl Can” campaign, a huge part of the revolution in female marketing, owed much of its success to working sessions aimed at uncovering the hidden barriers to women exercising.

So, whether it is probing your aunt about her gardening, or listening to a radio chat show outside your usual preferences, taking the time to curiously listen will inspire in new ways. Foster’s “Your Call” campaign was famously inspired after ana evening eaves dropping in a pub.

You never know where inspiration might strike, so be curious, be nosey. Take out those headphones and listen.

 

 

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