irrational love of stuff

I like sneakers. By ‘like’, I mean: I own more than 40 pairs (I haven’t counted recently), I am aware of what Nike and Adidas are going to release each week, I am on a first name basis with multiple employees at local specialty retail stores, and I have conversations about shoes more or less daily.

I think this is an essential thing if you’re going to work in marketing or communications. Not shoes, specifically, but having an irrational love of SOMETHING, to the point where it would be a little weird to people who don’t understand it.

Loving sneakers has given me direct insight into things like: the emotional rationales that are developed around price elasticity, retailer relationships, developing regular behaviours, exclusivity and perceived exclusivity, how brand perception shifts over time, brand loyalty and in-group / out-group relationships developed around brand loyalty, product/service driven differentiation vs brand driven differentiation, how trends become standards and standards become passé, innovation in eCommerce, mCommerce and cross-channel commerce, social media promotions, influencer marketing strategies, content development for diverse audiences, and manufacturing buzz.

I understood each of these concepts, to a degree, intellectually. But it’s very, very different to have lived through the experience, from the perspective of someone who actually cares, than it does to observe from the outside. This is my inherent issue with more anthropological approaches to finding consumer insight.

You can’t really know how something feels until you go through it, no matter how closely you watch or how carefully you ask someone to explain it to you. This is why the phrase “I know how you feel” is never as satisfying to the person hearing it, as it is to the person saying it.

Which is to say: I don’t trust the marketing communications instincts of anyone who thinks they’re too good for consumerism. You probably shouldn’t either, they’re probably in the wrong business.

(This originally appeared in the Attention Industry newsletter on March 21st, 2017. You can sign up here, if you want to read more things like this, and/or not so much like this.)