I reckon if I weren't a Planner I'd be a chef.
I love to eat and love to cook, although I'm not really that very good at it if I'm being honest. I'd never become one of the best chefs in the world, but I'd roll my sleeves up, get my hands dirty and give it a bloody good go.
That's not too dissimilar to my life as a Planner.
I like to roll my sleeves up, get stuck in and try and live the life of the people I'm trying to understand. There are, of course, many different ways to do this and tools like TGI and Mintel allow you to look at many people at once and see the commonalities and differences between them. Some Planners would base the majority of their response around those statistics - after all it's robust research on a specific target market, and may have a sample size in the thousands. Surely that's a good way to understand people?
It is, but I think it can only go so far. As well as looking at lots of people I think you need to be that person yourself. It's not that one is better than the other, more that both are needed to really understand something.
I was at an APG talk last year where Nick Southgate talked about a pitch on Argos he was working on for some huge agency. I can't remember precisely but he said something like this: He walked into the boardroom where the top bods were talking about how they were going to approach the response and present the ideas. He looked at the millionaires sat around the table and asked everyone if they'd been to Argos in the last six months or so. Not a single person had. He then talked about the need for Planners (and other agency staff) to live a bit like the people you're trying to understand.
I think that's spot on and it's something I bang on about all the time, and indeed it's something people see me for. In FRUKT I was known as the 'voice of the common man' and I'm happy with that because that, in essence, is what a Planner should be in my opinion. You're there to talk from the viewpoint of the person the campaign is trying to engage with.
That's why I really like chefs, but dislike food critics.
A chef is someone that does something; a critic is someone that views things.
Without wanting to sound all cliché, that's one of the differences between a good Planner and an average Planner in my opinion. As well as viewing things, you must want to actually do something.
I'm very interested in agency processes and one thing I always try and do is make processes smoother but also more meaningful. Moving from viewing things to experiencing things; from reading things to immersion into things.
So far I've worked in a real range of agencies. Some have had specific internal research departments, some have had in-house media departments and the superb tools they use, and some have had just the internet as a source.
What I've strived to do in each one, and will continue to strive to do, is live like the people I'm trying to understand. There's no substitution for seeing the world through the eyes of someone else. Some people talk a lot about the brand; about how the brand is planned and what this means for the business. All that stuff is needed of course, but what I think I'm OK at is looking at things from a person's point of view. Do they care about the brand house; the brand hierarchy or which department of the business will look after the Twitter account? No. That's the stuff that's important to the brand, not the consumer.
Be the consumer, not the brand. Roll your sleeves up, get stuck in and give it a go. Be a chef, not a critic.