Photo by Anh Tuan To on Unsplash

Understanding the world in the manner of others

And why you can’t rely on cardboard cut-outs of your customers anymore

2 min readJan 24, 2022


Our attitudes and values may not switch on a dime but what we like or dislike does

It’s challenging to keep up with modern consumers.

And it’s not that we haven’t tried.

Every year marketers build elaborate customer journeys and profiles.

And every year, everyone ends up with the same cardboard cutout as everyone else.

Customer profiles aren’t redundant, of course.

But they’re not enough.

Behind every customer journey is the noble idea of walking a mile in your customer’s shoes.

But modern consumers don’t walk. They flutter around like butterflies, jumping from trend to trend.

We need to keep pace with how they feel, what they mean, and the conditions for earning their attention.

French Philosopher Merleau Ponty called it ‘understanding the world in the manner of others.’ but we can call it empathy.

We’re simultaneously crafting and living our ideal selves.

And the virtually infinite selection of products allows us to invent and reinvent ourselves.

That’s why brands today can’t be limited to what they sell.

As CJ Thompson wrote in The Why of Consumption*, people look for ‘acts of re-enchantment, moments of magic, community, spirituality, and authenticity from brands.’

And that’s precisely why you can no longer rely on cardboard cutouts of your customers.

Use creativity in advertising.

It’s not just a nice afterthought.

And it doesn’t need to involve any rotting food or celebrities suspended between two trucks.

We’re all equally limited by the same cookie-cutter demographics and interest-based profiles. There’s no more juice to be squeezed from that dried-up fruit.

But creativity is how you show people that you know how they feel, what they mean, and they will pay attention to you.