Lessons from History on truly understanding your target.

By Amber Hudson

Every week Luke and I sit down to discuss the next EIM blog topic.  It’s the highlight of my week.  This week Luke brought up the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of JKF which is coming up on November 22nd.  While I watched him well up over the end of Camelot, innocence lost, the death of a great man I was doing a bang up job of stifling yawn after yawn, nodding my head in what I hopped Luke would interpret as interest.  Then Luke asked…so what do you think?  I replied….um, I don’t really care about JFK.

Colour me a sociopath…and it’s not that I don’t care….it’s that I just can’t muster up Luke’s enthusiasm on the topic, or any enthusiasm for that matter.  Is it because I’m Canadian?  A Gen Xer ?  I get it, we can’t always write about Bieber, Zombies and Crack Smokin’ Mayors.  But I dug down deep and came up with nothing for JFK.

At the end of the day, whether I care or not is completely beside the point.  In his “theory of generations” sociologist Karl Mannheim suggested “people are significantly influenced by the socio-historical environment that predominates their youth”.  By understanding the seminal events in your target’s lifestage you will gain insight into what formed their beliefs, values, hopes and fears.   So to understand Boomers is to understand that in mourning JFK an entire generation is morning the loss of an age of innocence.    Hence Luke’s passion and my lack thereof.  But talk to me about the fall of the Berlin Wall, AIDS or the Challenger explosion…I’m all over it.

So the lesson to marketers is you need to be careful because one’s own tastes can be misleading.  To truly know your target you must understand the events that defined their generation.  You don’t need to care, but you DO need to understand.