Hitler’s Moustache

I recently shaved off my goatee due to a terrible shaving accident. I was able to salvage a reasonable “jazz dot” from the remains of my facial manhood. (You may know this type of facial hair as an “imperial”, “royale”, “soul patch” or “nubbin”). So what does this somewhat personal information have to do with marketing? Hang in there while I spin another fascinating and insightful yarn.

My “jazz dot” is my personal homage to my former life as a touring blues musician. It also is a nod to to some of my favorite musicians. What I didn’t know was that this style of facial hair was historically worn by French officers as a badge or adornment of military rank or status (thank you wikipedia).

However, last week a 10 year old kid in my neighborhood looked at my fabulous soul patch and said, “You have Hitler’s moustache but it’s on your chin!”.

This kid had his own unique perception of my look – with none of the understanding behind my intention or my own perception. He simply dealt with what he saw and framed it within his own point of reference.

As marketing people we often generalize or stereotype target audiences, lumping them together into like-minded groups and presenting them with a message that we believe will come though loud and clear to the majority of the constituents within each group. We expect their point of reference and perception to match ours and receive the message we intend.

In reality, there is simply no way to predict how someone will translate and perceive your carefully researched and thought-out concept. You have no idea how each person’s personal experience and points of reference will impact the meaning of your communication.

Until marketing communication can truly be “one to one” this limitation will continue to exist. The good news is that the majority of your audience will “get it”. The others will probably compare you to Hitler.

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