You Can’t Please All of the People All of the Time

Back when I was a kid, there was a story about an old man, his son and a donkey. No, not, ‘Mr. Hands’, you sick fucks. I’m talking about some Aesop-fable, next-level, parable shit.

The point of the story is that, sometimes, teachers run out of ideas, and that they probably drink a whole lot more than you’d guess (I am allowed to say that, I used to be a teacher who drank.)

But it also had a message that superseded crappy parenting skills or animal cruelty- it was about the futility of trying to make everyone happy all the time.

This is true for business content, and it’s especially true for anything that can be slapped with that very generous and forgiving label: ‘art’.

Let’s start with business content in this post though, because that’s what I get paid for, and let’s face it, you have enough people telling you that your ‘art’ is ‘like, no, like really good’ and that you should always ‘just be yourself’. No, I think you have enough enablers to encourage you to make a macaroni necklace with confidence. You special, fucking snowflake.

So back to the marketing bored-room (get it? ‘Bored’… Like as in ‘Dave went nuts in the meeting and bored this corkscrew through my eye and straight into my brain.’… Hahaha. Office humour.)

The biggest mistake I see companies trying to make is trying to speak to ALL of the people, ALL of the time. “We want to appeal to tweens with disposable income, but also to busy moms, and to young professionals in their first jobs, Jehova’s Witnesses, plumbers, people between the ages of 56 and 56 and a half, and to Indian people- in India … And we want it to be viral.”

Bitch, unless you are literally selling the bubonic plague, you can keep tripping.   And this doesn’t just happen when you blur the lines between demographics, it also happens when you try to communicate too many messages at the same time.

“We need to launch the new product, but also encourage new members to sign up to our database, and we need to tell old members that the rewards system has changed. We also need to reassure legacy customers that nothing has changed. But then warn them that it might. But then tell them it was all just a joke. Until it isn’t. Oh, and we’ve got a tagline that Sandra in HR came up with that we really want to use…”

Well, fuck you, Sandra in HR. How would you like it if I told you how to do your job?

When it comes to choosing a message and a market, you need to start getting specific. We have the technology now. Even if big data is still too big for you, and ‘hadoop’ sounds like something you do in the toilet while you’re on 9Gag, chances are you still have access to more information than you’re using.

Stop ruining your entire database’s day with your long, boring-ass newsletter. Stop expecting your customers to scan through mountains of bullshit to find the few bits and pieces that speak to them. Stop mixing your messages, cluttering up your designs, and trying to find the perfect voice. Prioritise what you want to say and to whom. And then be ruthless with what’s surplus.

Find something genuinely cool, interesting or relevant to every single person (or, more realistically, a few sub-groups) and grab their attention in an authentic way that says ‘Hey you! This will only take you 5 minutes to read, it might even be useful, but- importantly- you can look like a fucking BOSS when you share it with your like-minded dweeb friends on Facebook later.’

Even if it means creating more microcontent than you can shake a drowned donkey at, it’s the first step towards almost creating an almost meaningful online experience.

And for fuck’s sakes, stop encouraging Sandra in HR.