Believing our excuses
We go deeper with customers to discover that we resist real change.
Believing our excuses
In our previous Episode of Customer, Now, “Projecting injustice”, we invited people to share their commitments to progressing racial justice. We received an overwhelming response of people sharing the actions they were taking – some big, but most of them small. Signing petitions. Listening and learning. Having conversations with their kids. Small, personal acts that were meaningful to the person making them. These small acts, at scale can make a big difference, but only when they are sustained. When they are cumulative and when they scale.
So, in this episode, we wanted to ask, “What makes change stick?” What are the differences in motivation between people who project and deflect; those who act and move on; and those who make committed actions, compounding into sustainable change? We expanded our research, beyond our typical global composition of Customer, Now, to include more racially diverse perspectives – intimately (in one-to-one chats) and at scale (via quantitative data analysis). We looked at change through the lenses of COVID-19; of racial injustice; and in mundane, everyday experiences, to see if we could draw out human truths of sustainable change, regardless of context.
Skipping forward to the answer, it’s all about “my” personal connection to what needs to change – from my realization; to my commitment; to my action; to my change. The more a realization is about myself, and what “I” can do; the more dedicated the commitment to act is; the more meaningful the action taken; the greater the degree of change created. If I don’t see “me” as part of the problem, I don’t see my actions as part of the solution. And so I’m less committed. Scale this personal process of change to 7 billion and you have both the human problem and the human solution to change.
Realization → Commitment → Action → Change
People are conflating their beliefs on one issue with the reality of another to justify their inaction. Believing that police need to be respected does not change the experience of racial injustice. Similarly, believing that it’s OK for ME not to practice social distancing because “I’ve done it long enough” does not change the science of virology. We see in people’s responses – from COVID 19 to racial injustice – that their beliefs become points of deflection for a realization, commitment, action and change NOT made. Said differently, people are quick to find excuses NOT to change.
When we looked at all the data, the responses from people who identified as white indicated more excuses being made. Their responses projected more and committed less. The responses from people identifying themselves as people of color, indicated a strong personal connection to racial injustice. There is no distancing themselves from the reality of racial injustice. It IS reality. Further, the responses from people of color drew a strong connection between the change they wanted to see in society and the actions they were taking in their lives to create that change. People of color made less excuses. People identifying as white indicated less motivation to change.
Because change is personal. Change affects me and I affect change. The actions we take are individual and only scale when more people feel more personally committed to them. So, we either make change or we make excuses.
What’s next for brands?
The traditional thinking on growing brands held that because there is no globally universal customer, brands had to identify “targets”, “segments” and profiles of demographically preferable customers on which to focus. Brands were built to be exclusive.
But today, brands need only to follow the money to see bigger opportunities in building more inclusive brands. Connecting with more people, more deeply. Understanding more diverse audiences in new ways…
We need to respect the police
This isn’t a race issue
The media makes this about race when it isn’t
I can’t take action against racism because of COVID-19
I’m too busy to deal with racism
Racism will be around forever, so what’s the point?
Black people are just looking for special attention
Black lives matter?! ALL lives matter
Stop making me feel guilty because I’m white
I live around Black people, so I can see there’s no racism/I’m not racist
I don’t see color/ I’m color blind
Racism is a thing of the past…it isn’t MY fault
My best friend is Black so I’m not racist
If the roles were reversed, Black people wouldn’t stand up for white people (or other varieties of empty ‘reverse racism’ arguments)
Making it Personal
Building inclusive brands
The traditional thinking on growing brands held that because there is no globally universal customer, brands had to identify “targets”, “segments” and profiles of demographically preferable customers on which to focus. Meanwhile, the marginalized, the quieter, the darker, the underreported, went underrepresented.
Brands were built to be exclusive.
But today, brands need to build more inclusive brands – connecting with more people, more deeply. To understand more diverse audiences in new ways. To adapt to local markets. To tap into new customers. To be relevant in new ways. To build a more diverse and inclusive business to better represent the customers they serve.
It’s about championing the identity of your customers; not requiring your customers to champion yours.
We would argue the same framework of “realization-to-change” that we require as people, works equally well for brands. To realize the bigger opportunity for THIS brand; to commit the business to it; to take actions to address it; to create change because of it.
Companies can be a massive force of change in the choices they make. The choice to build a more inclusive brand is a choice to build more diverse talent into your organization and more diverse audiences into your brand. It’s a choice to grow. To marry diversity and excellence. To do otherwise is an excuse — limiting a brand’s growth and risking its survival.
Nothing is changing faster than ourselves.What’s happening with customers right now and what should business do next?
Suddenly, these two questions became a lot more complicated; the answers require us to get beyond the numbers, headlines and hyperbole in search of simple, scalable human truths.
That’s why we’ve launched Customer, Now., a project to document, explore and understand lock-down, and what follows it, from the customers’ perspective.
Through our global communities, we are tapping into the human truths behind customers’ experiences in real-time; exploring their inner worlds more deeply, and creating fresh, generative insights and implications to share with our community.
There’s one guiding insight that’s immediately become clear: in this fast-changing situation, nothing is changing faster than ourselves. This is what we’re exploring through Customer, Now.
It’s not uniform change, nor is it constant. It’s an evolution of our inner lives, our relationships, family, friends, home, health, work and, inevitably, our customer behaviour. And it’s more rapid than we’ve ever seen before.
Through Customer, Now. we'll deliver to our community an insight, and its implications, every week. With this work, we have one simple aim: to drive a brighter, more progressive, customer-inspired version of tomorrow.
Explore the episodes:
01: Community as essential as food
02: The opposite is also true
03: Survival of the Simplest
04: We before me
05: Humanity in the balance
06: Guilt in Everything
07: The widening empathy gap
08: Habits of control
09: Energy beyond the moment
10: Projecting injustice
11: Believing our excuses
12: Being authentically inclusive
13: Embracing our Truths
14: Living in the grey
15: The “Sustainability” disconnect
16. Reinforcing Myself
17. 2020 “In” Review