"My 16-year-old son syndrome"

It's an easy trap to fall into isn't it? To assume that your behaviours, patterns and preferences are like everybody else's?

Time and time again this easily-made mistake negatively influences what we do (or don't do) when it comes to our approach to B2B marketing and communications.

"Well I don't ever use that site" is so often a response to a suggested new media partner or social media channel. Our friends at Adobe captured the essence of this very neatly with their "Woo Woo" commercial, aimed at you and me in the industry. We've all worked in departments like that, where the decisions seemed to be made on a whim and with shaky at best logic or insight.

I've personally experienced the "My 16-year-old son syndrome" first hand on many occasions - where the bias or subjectivity of somebody (often somebody more senior than you) demands that something is stopped, changed or immediately started, based on their off-kilter insight.

Picture the scene...

The feared big boss of the business comes thundering through the office door: "Why are we still sending out emails?" My 16-year-old son and his friends don't use email any more, they only ever use Snapchat and WhatsApp. Stop this programme at once."


"Listen up everyone, we should be using Instagram for our lead generation programme, my 16-year-old son is always on Instagram and has thousands of followers".

You know the feeling - where this combination of bias and seniority trumps any reasoning you may have. Reasoning such as the evidence that email marketing is still growing year on year and even today it averages a 38X return on spend. Or the fact that although Instagram may well be the platform of choice for their beloved son, we know that our target audience (of senior IT decision makers, say) spend far more time on Xing or LinkedIn when it comes to making business decisions. Sure, they may well use Instagram for fun and keeping up with friends and family, but when did anyone want to hear from a Business supplier at that point?!

The lesson here is to be careful. I love the quote from a literacy hero of mine, Atticus Finch, the main protagonist in Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" ...

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

So unless your (or your bosses) behaviour, use of technology etc. is entirely representative of your client base or target audience, then your opinion matters little. Instead you must ensure you focus on understanding what they do/like/prefer and marry your marketing efforts to their persuasion, no one else's.

Steve is a multi-award winning marketer and the IDM Educator of the Year for 2017. He teaches on numerous courses and qualifications, including our Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing and the Professional Certificate in Email Marketing. 


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