A few years ago I was sat with a young Chinese intern, brimming with confidence and bundled up in k-pop culture: blue hair, retro t-shirt, weird socks. I asked her to walk me through Chinese social media, a reasonably big ask if ever there was one.
After some discussion, I then asked her to look over another channel and give her opinion: what did it look like through her blue fringe?
Rather bland, as it turned out.
“It’s just like advertising,” she said, bluntly.
“Just showing off what they do over and over again. ‘We did this, we do this’ over and over. It’s kind of like: ‘Well ok, thanks’. It doesn’t make me reflect, or make me want to do anything.”
Yes, right. Hm.
I loved the clarity of her delivery. Older people, I include myself in that group I suppose, often sit in meeting rooms talking about analytics and templates. It sounds professional and businesslike. Scientific, almost.
We search for ‘signal’ – little numbers on spreadsheets that may tell us what works and what doesn’t.
Less often do people sit in meeting rooms and talk about what actually moves people: art.
Lillian, the intern, showed me examples of stories that worked well with young people in China.
They were poems, short stories, photo essays, many made by young people who were trying to express themselves. These little pieces of art might not have been perfect, but they were real.
It’s very hard matching messages to audiences. It can often seem like we’re trying to serve salad while our potential customers are asking for pizza.
And then, sometimes, we’ll try and make our salad look like pizza. We might even get away with it once or twice. But it’s not sustainable.
People smell salad-pizza a mile off.