The Election, La La Land, Pokémon Go, Whisky & Ice-Cream for Breakfast: Why Reading Cultural Shifts Matters For Communicators

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By Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO, CommunicationsMatchTM 

Most of us recognize change only when it has happened – rarely when it is happening.  Confirmation bias – our self-selecting perception of the world – reinforces what we already believe and often serves to blind us from underlying reality.  The 2016 election is a case in point.

In recent days, I have been reminded of other clues to changes taking place in society worth paying attention to.  It’s important to take a moment to look at these cultural data points both to understand the long-term shifts taking place and trends we will see over the coming years.

lalalandLa La Land

In a review of La La Land, Manohla Dargis the film critic of the New York Times asks whether or not La La Land makes the musical matter again.  She argues that while “La La Land” engages with nostalgia, it also passionately speaks to the present.

Pokémon Go 

In a Financial Times interview of John Hanke, developer of Pokémon Go, San Francisco Correspondent Tim Bradshaw speculates that one reason for Pokémon’s overwhelming popularity was that it provided escapism from the year’s tumultuous world events.  Hanke politely agreed, but sees that as exacerbating a set of conditions that we actually have lived in for lots of years, which is, like, this constant drumming of technology, pressure and speed.

Whisky & Ice-Cream for Breakfast

Through her (un)usual anthropological window, Gillian Tett, Managing Editor of the FT in the U.S. highlights the phenomenon of the shy voter.  The fact that many people in the last election did not want to disclose who they were voting for.  She notes that a vote for Trump, was more like eating ice-cream laced with whisky for breakfast – something establishment people did not want to admit to.

When we connect these threads – it is possible to see reverberations of the financial crisis and all that has followed it.  A nostalgic desire for a better past, escape from the present and a vote for change.  Similar to the echoes (gravitational waves) of the Big Bang, these and many other cultural tells reveal ways in which society is responding to a rapidly changing world.  A world in which many are being left behind. 

The election results are the clearest manifestation of working class angst.  Cultural changes are symptoms.  They are the tea leaves we need to read as an industry if our communications are to resonate with the disenfranchised now and in the future. 

 This is a business and a communications challenge.  Businesses cannot be tone deaf.  Successful communicators looking to help grow and protect brands will need to think outside their reality bubbles.  We need to learn the lessons of an election where so many got it wrong, and do a better job as Tett argues in her piece of listening to what’s really going on.

Culture is just one place to look.  After the election will be see more escapism or realism?  Hedonism or nihilism?  Time will tell.

About the Author: Simon Erskine Locke is Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM a global communications-focused matching search engine.  With more than 4,500 U.S. and International agencies and professionals listed, it is a go-to resource for businesses seeking communications services providers with expertise in areas including: public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video.  Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior Corporate Communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies. 

 

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