Who are ‘they’? ‘They’ say this, ‘they’ say that. ‘They’ are the unseen forces behind everything from what’s in vogue in advertising awards to the machinations of the macro-level economy. ‘They’ are thought leaders and opinion formers. And ‘they’ are the ones that we need to impress with our blog posts, Twitter feeds, ideas or work.
But who are ‘they’?
‘They’ are the epitome of The Machine, the unseen forces that govern things outside of our control. The actions of elected officials. The healthcare system. The awards we don’t vote for or organise. ‘They’ run the machine, ‘they’ are the ones behind its best ideas and its worst abuses. ‘They’ are the top of the tree.
However, ‘they’ are people like you and I.
‘They’ is a semantic shortcut to denote groups of individuals who choose to align themselves to a particular branch of thought, industry or action. ‘They’ are the economic experts pronouncing on the state of the economy. ‘They’ are the military experts selling the idea of war. ‘They’ are the bohemians and revolutionaries. ‘They’ are everywhere and everyone.
By sharing our work, our thoughts, we become part of an overarching whole that is greater than ourselves. We become ‘they’ when our opinions start to gather enough weight to be counted along with the rest.
We become ‘they’ when we have someone to listen. But if we are ‘they’, doesn’t this imply a gap between us and ‘them’?
And that’s no good in a networked world. Yes, some distance might be required for sanity’s sake, but is reverting to us and ‘them’ healthy for our work, our brands, our ideas?
So maybe the question isn’t who are ‘they’ or what machine ‘they’re’ working for, but rather where the gap is, how wide it is and how we need to bridge it.
If we can identify and bridge that gap, then, by definition, ‘they’ become us with no division.
‘Us’ is a community. And community beats The Machine any day.
Because in a community, we all matter. We all have a place and a responsibility. We all have an input into the community output. We are in control of The Machine, not ‘them’.
And in branding or social media, this a way to move ‘them’ along the continuum from occasional purchasers to advocates and champions. ‘They’ need to become us, and we ‘them’.
A subtle, yet fundamental, shift, perhaps?
I have just watched a TV spot for a report from consumer organisation Which? encouraging people to grow their own vegetables.
The individuals in the spot are shown to be ordinary people covering most demographic groups. The key tie-in between all of them is that they wish to be able to grow some of their own food. The Which? Report therefore fulfils this niche.
However, Which? are the information givers in this situation – there is a gulf in between us (the would-be growing community) and ‘them’ (the Which? Experts). There is no suggestion of tied-in community here – an information gap exists which instantly inserts some distance between the key groups.
A preferable situation, at least to my way of thinking and in respect of the post above, would be for the community to be self-advising – and, importantly, Which? Establishing themselves as part of that community.
Therefore the information comes from within, the community self-educates and the opportunity arises for increased community interaction in Which? is positioned as a trusted partner. In this situation, there is no gap, ‘they’ become us…