The Hidden Tribes Study and The Differentiation Gap…

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Over the last few days, a special report about what America looks like politically has popped up in a lot of places. Titled “Hidden Tribes” it shows that 2/3rds of Americans are just exhausted by the whole thing and that only 1/3 of the country is really super engaged and fighting a “civil war.”

I haven’t read the entire document, but the stuff I read from David Brooks and Mike Allen got me to thinking about marketing 101 and “The Differentiation Gap.”

First, this is a great reminder for the media and people that are involved in elections that you have to always keep in mind rule 1 of marketing, “You aren’t your audience.”

I’ve ranted and raved on and on about piss poor effort that passes as digital marketing and fundraising for Democratic campaigns because I happened to donate a few times to Barack Obama in his two campaigns for President.

But more than this, this idea that 2/3rds of the population have tuned you out should be a clear indication that you need to do something different, especially if you are a Democrat that always wants to achieve a higher level of turnout.

If you are a Republican, your ambition is likely to use even more push polls, negative campaigns, and attack ads because that is proven to reduce turnout and the statistics show that this will benefit you.

Going back to you aren’t your market though if your goal is to engage and persuade people to take action, more of the same isn’t likely to help you very much.

You are going to have to approach the idea from a different standpoint.

Again, because you aren’t your market…this means figuring out what is important to your audience.

You’ve thought you were a clear specificity, but in truth, you are a commodity or, in many cases, worse, you are just noise.

Second, a study like this highlights the true gap between the average American and the media, politicians, and pretty much everyone that doesn’t live and work in and around the government.


Because for that many people to be tuned out, means your message isn’t relevant to your audience.

The myth in news as always been if it bleeds it leads, but lately, it seems like if it is always about screaming shrilly about the most incendiary thing some politician has said or done this week.

Again about 67% of people are just tuned out.

So this means that only a small amount of people are paying attention to the ups and downs of Donald Trump.

Which can be scary if you think he is the devil.

Or, it can be a salve if you are trying to push through policies and ideas that most Americans would find offensive if they cared enough to engage in the process.

As we hear regularly about the death of the news industry, our first thought shouldn’t be that Americans are stupid for tuning out. It should actually be that if they aren’t paying attention to the news, maybe that means that the news isn’t filling the need that Americans have to be informed.

How would that change the approach of news media?

I’m not sure.

I’d like to think that if there was a more sober place to get news, it might give people confidence in the sources.

Because I have to believe that what has happened to news is really a reflection of the larger US media market which is that people are inundated with requests for attention. But the more people are beating upon for their attention, the more difficult it becomes to gain it.

And, if you don’t hold it…game over and you aren’t likely to get a second chance.

Which brings me back to “The Differentiation Gap” and this study.

For a long time, if you have followed politics, you have thought that there wasn’t a big gap between you and the rest of the people you share an opinion with.

You’ve likely felt like people really care about this or that and they must be outraged.

But the reality is that it might not be so much outrage as indifference because what you are outraged about isn’t meaningful to the people you need to reach and want to reach…and that should give you pause.


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