Melissa Bailey-Harris

Melissa Bailey-Harris

Assistant Vice President, Strategic Marketing Communications

Good Marketing = Diversity of Thought

Melissa Bailey-Harris

Sep 07, 2017

I've spent quite a bit of time in my life thinking about what makes something tick. As a child, I would take apart electronics just to peek inside. I'm sure it drove my parents insane. My curiosity evolved into a deep interest in understanding and knowing things. EVERY thing. Why does that work? How does it work? How could it work better?

Through my high school and college years, this thing called the Internet happened. I spent my days in the dorm learning to code when I discovered the "View Source" link in the Netscape Navigator web browser, and peeking under the hood of Yahoo's fantastically 90's-era website. I loved every minute of what I was doing. It became my passion.

What I didn't expect is that I also developed a passion for how people work. How we think. What makes someone engage, or disengage. While I tinkered with code in my dorm room, I also studied sociology. I learned and found a new appreciation for how one's exposure impacts experience, which then shapes perspective. And not only did I study this, I was living it.

It was quite a shock leaving my comfortable hometown roots of Avon Lake, Ohio, and starting anew on a college campus in Evanston, Illinois. I began to meet and learn from a truly diverse group of individuals. This exposure to different cultures, different religions, different life philosophies, different interests, different backgrounds — just different people in every way — came to shape my experience.

The most profound lesson I took away from that experience: "Not everyone thinks like you." Such a simple lesson, but so profound that I've come to apply it to my thinking each and every day. People are different. They offer different perspectives because of who they are — a makeup of their personal life exposures and experiences. And because of this simple lesson (and my knack for great website experiences), I came into marketing.

So, now about that. The title of this post should sum it up, right?  Well, here's the takeaway: In order to be an effective marketer, this simple principle must be ingrained in the DNA of how you approach everything you do. Consider that the customer/user does not think like you. How you respond is likely not how they might respond to what you're creating.  And with that, ensuring there is solid representation of a diversity of perspectives has better potential to capture what you don't see.

How might one achieve this? Some ways are easier than others. Traditionally, focus groups are a sound method, but not always feasible. 

In lieu of that, the easiest way to get to a strong result is to be deliberate about choosing a diverse collective to engage in the work from the beginning. But don't stop there. You can be curious and ask for perspectives from the unexpected passerby. Find the person down the hall who isn't a marketer, the student walking across the Oval, the cashier at the store downstairs, the person who cleans the office after hours. They will all bring different perspectives to the conversation, leaving you with valuable feedback that you might not have gotten otherwise. By valuing a wide range of perspectives, you have other angles to explore and discern, which in turn can be used to refine your end product. And, that's the gold that helps create good marketing.

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