David Shawcross
01-Feb-2019 15:07:36

Cattle, Grasshoppers and Cutting Through the Noise

 

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Lessons in audience behaviours and anthropomorphism from the French Revolution. 

Reflecting on British sentiment to the French Revolution (even before they wheeled out the guillotines. Edmund Burke cautioned his pen pal - “whilst thousands of great cattle… chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those [grasshoppers] who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field”.

That was back in 1790, and Burke was warning against drawing conclusions about popular opinion in England based on “certain publications”. Even in the 18th Century, Burke was aware that a vocal minority can skew an outsiders understanding; it only takes a loud few to obfuscate the opinions of many, effectively removing them from the conversation. Burke was talking about social listening back when the posts had to get shipped over to you (literally, with sails and rum).

Edmund Burke cautioned his pen pal - “whilst thousands of great cattle… chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those [grasshoppers] who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field”.

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We’ve come a long way in the two-plus-centuries since then - but people don’t change as fast as our shipping methods do. Even Aristotle complained about the loud-mouths of 347 BC - "They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it" - and 2018 has had its fair share of people expressing their thoughts loudly and confidently when they hold an extreme opinion. 

The only difference between 1790 and now is that people can express these extreme opinions with their thumbs - and express them straight into your social listening dashboard. Social listening excels at response activities like tracking hashtag campaigns, PR media monitoring, and customer service - but if you base your whole understanding of a field purely on the grasshoppers, you'd be missing out on some pretty big cows. Relying only on social listening will lead to a misinterpretation of your target audience. 

The real opportunity is to identify what Burke’s quiet, hungry majority really want.

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In a market research context, David Ogilvy famously said "consumers don’t think how they feel, say what they think or do what they say". Richard Shotton added that "the way to improve your research is to stop just listening to what customers say and start looking at what they do."

That's why the Codec platform is entirely based on a tribe's content engagements - because the grasshoppers aren't just drowning out the majority, their chirps are also unreliable signals.  

Rather than follow the noise, we surface the topics, tones of voice, influencers, brand, videos, articles, and images which achieve cut-through with this silent majority as they navigate the wall of noise built by media, brands, and vocal minorities. 

Codec exists to immerse you in Burke's metaphorical 'field'. We're here to help you truly understand the things that this unaddressed quiet majority value and care about. That way, your brand can cut through the chirps and make meaningful connections.

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