I’ve been thinking a bit about what we call things and what that tells us about who we are. Apart from anything, it gives me an excuse to post a Wiley video, so that can’t be bad.
The importance of what we call things is, hopefully self-evident. Being known as AJ stirs something very different from being and Andrew and very definitely from being a fucking Andy (sorry Andys). The consequences for brands should also be obvious. Nomenclature, though, is not simply a fancy French word for ‘name’; it is concerned, too, with the system of naming things.
There are a number of names we use as marketers and researchers that, for me, bely a systemic problem. Respondent, target group, audience and, worst of all, consumer. All of these terms are de-humanising, homogenising or both and demonstrate very clearly that our system of naming people (yes, they are human beings) is based solely on the purpose that those people serve us at a point in time.
Consumer is the worst of the lot because it positions people as a hoard of ad-propelled locusts, concerned only with the things they consume. Consumption, as our planet is testifying in increasingly violent ways, is destructive. If we continue to define people in this narrow way and to encourage them to consume endlessly more we are doomed. It’s not a question of brand survival, it’s just a basic question of survival.
If we want to do better in all our endeavours, we could do worse than to start by transforming our nomenclature to centre on the human animal as a whole rather than to subvert and compartmentalise it to suit our purpose.