A letter to my team on Nov. 9th, 2016
Foreword: It was 7:30am on November 9th, 2016 and I was sitting in my hotel room in Orlando, reeling from the news. I’m a big fan of an individual’s right to choose the presidential candidate that most aligns with their beliefs. So while I was not overtly sad or worried in that moment, I did feel a heavy sense of duty to comment on the election results. I at least knew that the road ahead was going to get messy. I knew people in my network could possibly be hurting that morning. As I say below I have no interest in punditry. I only care about another P word: People. Below is what I said through our shared Basecamp thread to my team, my partners, family and friends that day. As we continue to trend towards the divide, I feel this is still relevant. All who work in any form of communication, please allow the five minutes it takes to read this.
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Subject: And so it goes.
I am not qualified to discuss the election results from the perspective of an analyst or political pundit. I’ll leave those sort of discussions to your aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends on Facebook.
What I can say is this: Our agency, our industry is going to be super important in the oncoming years. Since the late 19th century, the tone of advertising and branding has helped shape the collective zeitgeist in the country. It’s our job as communicators, it’s our job as trend-setters to help decide how people think and feel.
Advertising has been asleep at the wheel, preying on the negative forces that can shape our lives. If we continue to consider the subtext to our narratives always being “life is tough, you need X” (especially in the financial sector) then there will continue to be a groundswell of disillusionment in the country, no matter who is president.
With some people in this country being exposed to four or five thousand advertising messages a day, you can’t help but let those communications shape HOW you think.
Study the election maps. We have major interests in the states that were critical to the election results. This election was all about emotion, people voted with their “heart”. Look at how the townships and counties our clients advertise in voted. It will help you get a better understanding of HOW they think. We often have no control or WHAT our clients decided to offer their customers, Members, etc — but we usually have complete control over the angle we take to present that offering.
Now, possibly more than ever, this will matter.
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Matthew Maguy is the co-founder and CEO of James & Matthew: A branding and advertising agency that makes people feel things.