We, Me, You & I – Surprise!

Over the years, we looked at other world events with bewilderment, disdain and sometimes amusement.  In 2016, we saw Brexit and Trump and we still them both now in 2019 from afar. We’re happy to judge as we’re different.  I’m mean, we’re more like New Zealand; our forgotten neighbour until we saw Jacinda Arden’s response to events in Christchurch, where the Tasman Sea was narrowed.   In our home country;

  • We saw Clive Palmer’s advertising but we ignored it, derided it
  • We know Pauline Hanson but we think she’s irrelevant these days
  • We read the Herald Sun most days but deliberately skip over Andrew Bolt’s column every day
  • We don’t live in Sydney so don’t have to listen to Alan Jones
  • We see other people passionate about the Stop Adani campaign
  • We saw Bill Shorten speak about his late mother
  • We loved Bob Hawke
  • We love Penny Wong
  • We like Tanya Plibersek

We weren’t surprised by the election result because the ‘we’ is me. This isn’t down to inside information, industry experience; it was a recognition that the collective ‘we’ projected is driven by our own individual bias.

When Brexit happened, it was the London vote that I aligned myself – the city I lived in for 10 years, the values of the Londoners people that I shared, a decision against the rest of the country.  The ‘we’ would rally against the result.

When Trump won in 2016, there was a piñata, life-sized cut-out and jar of pickles but that’s a story to share over beers than a blog, but I was surrounded by liberal friends and a visitor who had only largely been to California and New York.  The ‘we’ would count down the next four years.

So from the Australian election perspective, based on my periphery, my sources of influence, the media I’m exposed to and any other reference points, it should have been Labor.  But the story I listened to, was vastly different to the story that others listened to, reacted to, and voted for.  I am not the typical or average Australian, which is a lesson both personally and professionally as too often, we think we are the embodiment of the brands or companies we buy.

Professionally speaking, the pollsters coped it.  The Interpreters aren’t in the business of polling but we are in the business of understanding the market, the public, segments within countries, and helping brands grow.  When we report on the market opportunity, it’s based on what the Australian population look like: so we make sure we capture a representative sample of the different genders, age, location and ethnicity.  This allows us with confidence to size and predict the particular customer groups or market opportunities.  There’s more we understand about each audience but when it comes to understanding a new juice product, whether a model of car will appeal, or how to launch a new alcohol flavour, we have confidence in speaking about the broader appeal.

However, when it comes to politics, those basic demographics are still important and need to be represented, there’s more that needs to be factored in when trying to predict how micro segments within the Australian population will react.  Take ethnicity, look at religious views, general apathy towards politics and politicians in general and you’ll have only scratched at the surface.  How willing is an apathetic voter going to be answering the phone to talk through a political survey; or does a United Party voter tell the truth in a face to face exit poll.  We could talk about why online eliminates some of these biases but the point is there’s more at play for measuring a representative political sample than meets the eye.

While we’re not planning on signing the #Quexit petition or moving to New Zealand, there have been life lessons learnt from the Australian election.  Australia is a big country, we’ve always known that, but our bubble is just one of the many in vast population and the narrative we’re exposed to is very different to that person who voted for Michelle Landry in the seat of Capricornia.


By Paul Dixon

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