If you don’t understand people, you won’t understand anything about marketing

Following my meeting with Stéphane Hugon, a researcher at the Centre d’étude sur l’actuel et le Quontidien (CEAQ) and lecturer at the University of Paris V, I believe that we must look to social sciences (anthropology or sociology) for an in-depth understanding of marketing and communication.

The speech given by anthropologist Simon Sinek at the 99% Conference 2011 explained a lot and served to remind the audience of some misunderstood, or too quickly forgotten, truths.

We have a tendency to separate the way we interact in our lives with the way we look at business. And yet, as far as I know, business happens between humans. So, when debating this, I like to pull examples from daily life to explain my point.


And just like the video’s title says, if you don’t understand people, you certainly won’t understand the first thing about business.

The facts are clear.

As such, Sinek explains the difference between being reliable (doing what we said we were going to do) and trust by bringing us back to what unites us.

Trust is not (of course) connected to reliability; to prove it, he takes a simple example that applies to everyone.

When you meet someone from your country on the other side of the world, chances are you will immediately connect with and trust this person, even though you don’t know him. If he says to try a restaurant, you’ll try it.

Of course, if some random person stops you on the street at home just to recommend a restaurant, chances are you’re going to question his reliability and simply dismiss his suggestion.

All of this is simply linked to a system of common values and beliefs in a potentially strange – or at the very least, different – location.

He continues with another example:

If a friend drops by to ask how he should speak or dress so that you’ll like him more, you’ll most likely reply (after rolling your eyes or looking at him like he’s gone crazy): “Just be yourself!”

However, the majority of companies study all of these elements and forget that what they believe in ultimately determines what they are. They even go to the extent of asking people how they could be more authentic… it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Say what you think people want to hear doesn’t work because in the end, it’s neither consistent nor authentic.

Brands like Harley Davidson and Apple succeed because they have the strength to state what they believe and everyone consequently understands. When you see someone with a Mac or Harley Davidson tattoo it indicates that they share the brand’s values.

Do you agree that to understand business you need to understand people?…