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The DisUnited States of Everywhere


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At The Sound we explore the world by listening to people. In 2015, we showed how fringes change the world from the outside-in. In 2016, we looked at how brands can thrive in the age of disruption. And now we’re exploring a world that seems to have completely come apart from itself.

We call this The DisUnited States of Everywhere. It’s the strange new world that we all live in now. A world where neighbours no longer share a common story, where empathy and trust are in increasingly short supply and where millions of people who’ve felt alienated and ignored have started to speak up and speak loudly.

It's a world in desperate need of some unity.

Published in: Marketing
  • Hello! Get Your Professional Job-Winning Resume Here - Check our website!
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  • PS "protest is the new brunch" is a great line, kudos to the author(s)!
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  • Cool report. While I agree that the ECHO CHAMBERS ARE TOXIC and there is (less) SHARED NARRATIVE, I take some issue with the idea that the media is broken. It's certainly changed, but is it any more broken than the hotel business with airbnb or the taxi market with uber etc. As you point out, trust in the media is what's broken. With more media choices, (all) individuals have to be more discerning in their choices of what media(s) they do trust. Lots of good journalists are out there if you (individuals) take the time to find them. Great report and I hope that the new SHARED NARRATIVE can be about the environment and human rights, since we certainly all share that!
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The DisUnited States of Everywhere

  3. 3. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM A DEEP DIVE INTO DisUNITY Brexit and Trump were only a shock to those who weren’t listening to the right people. The dust refuses to settle on these twin democratic events and what has emerged is the most challenging communications landscape in recent memory. At The Sound, we work to understand all social phenomenon, no matter how murky or difficult the subject. In fact, the more rugged the terrain, the more reason to explore it. We wanted to find out why so few saw these seismic shifts coming and meet the people who made it happen. So we put boots on the ground in places we haven’t been to recently, or places we haven’t been to ever. We talked to people in their homes, at their jobs and around their towns and cities. Normal, everyday places for those who live there, but places that are often overlooked by those in the marketing bubble. We did this because we realized we were missing a very big piece of the cultural puzzle and needed to challenge our own worldview. What we discovered isn’t just a political story. It’s a story of missed signals, mass alienation and millions of people who had fallen off the radar. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 3
  5. 5. Not too long ago, we all got our news from the same place: a few trusted sources that tried to appeal to everyone. Consensus was the goal and alienation was bad for business. Now we have infinite choice and it’s easy to find something that perfectly caters to our beliefs. Anyone can reach a national or international audience at the swipe of a smartphone, and facts are irrelevant. This has created a media experience that is dominated by emotion – and one where those who don’t share our views are reflected back to us in a funhouse mirror. TRUST IN THE NEWS IS AT AN ALL-TIME LOW. A FRACTURED MEDIA IS ACCELERATING DIVISION. THE MEDIA IS BROKEN JOURNALISTS ARE FAILING TO UNDERSTAND PUBLIC OPINION. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 5 “The whole time I was deplorable, I didn’t know what I was doing, I’m an idiot … this, that, whatever. Well, there’s a lot of people who had the same idea I had … seeing the same things I see.” - Luke, Darlington, WI
  6. 6. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM We haven’t merely been occupying our own personal echo chambers, but have been living our lives in entire echo ecosystems; insulated from each other by great walls of self-perpetuating white noise. We are only exposed to the voices we want to listen to, the sources we want to read and the people we want to talk to. All of this amounts to a situation that not only prevents us from experiencing others’ opinions but sabotages our ability to empathize with them. FILTER BUBBLES ARE SABOTAGING OUR ABILITY TO EMPATHIZE. POLARIZATION HAS GONE NUCLEAR. “I’m a conservative so they think I’m a horrible person but they don’t know who I am.” - Suzy, Woodstock, VT THE ECHO CHAMBER IS TOXIC WE HAVE SELF-SEGREGATED INTO PERSONALIZED FEEDBACK LOOPS. 6
  7. 7. Football, baseball, a good movie, a hit song, the stars and stripes, the Union Jack. Even your morning coffee and your afternoon pint. Everything has been politicized and the things that once united us now dis-unite. We used to watch the same TV shows. Go to the same restaurants and read the same newspapers. We used to share the same story. Not anymore. We now live in a world where large segments of society live in parallel realities. Many things have changed very quickly, and it’s just now coming into focus how radically the landscape has shifted.. Welcome to the Disunited States of Everywhere. COMMUNICATION HAS NEVER BEEN MORE CHAOTIC. WE NO LONGER SHARE A COMMON STORY. THERE IS NO SHARED NARRATIVE PEOPLE HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE DIVIDED. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 7 “We had a community spirit that doesn’t exist any more. Everyday people are suffering and the world is falling apart.” - Rose, Birmingham, UK
  8. 8. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. We set out to meet people whose voices were missing from the conversation. Contrary to popular opinion, they were not a homogenous monolith, but a diverse group from all political and social backgrounds. Between everyone we talked to, we found commonalities across borders, across party lines and across dinner tables. Regardless of politics or geographic location, they are united in how their prospects have been diminished, how they’ve been failed by the status quo, how they’ve become alienated from their culture and economy, and have embraced a spirit of rebellion in response. HIDDEN FEELINGS ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT PRO-AUTONOMY HYPER-TRIBALISM TRUST DEFICIT 8WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  9. 9. Many of the people we talked to told us about how they are unwilling to express their true feelings to others, sometimes even to their family, friends and colleagues. This often came from a place of fear – fear of being ridiculed, fear of being ostracized, and most commonly, a fear of being misunderstood. These were the relatives staying quiet at Christmas dinner or the colleagues absent from the water cooler. They were the other side of the story that wasn’t being told. OVER-RELIANCE ON BIG DATA HAS RESULTED IN MILLIONS OF VOICES BEING IGNORED. MASSIVE GROUPS OF PEOPLE HAVE FALLEN OFF THE RADAR. “It’s not like they’re just not listening to us. They don’t even know we’re here. They don’t even know we’re on the map.” - Carol, Ashtabula, OH HIDDEN FEELINGS
  10. 10. The Internet’s promise of a global village has fractured into endless pockets of isolation where we communicate intensely with those we identify with and are barely in contact with those we don’t. But within this fragmentation, surprising new relationships are taking form that are uniting people. The type of robust online communities that were once limited to fringe cultures have gone mainstream. They aren’t constrained by geography or class, but are bound together by a common cause related to the challenges the participants share. WHERE TRADITIONAL BONDS BREAK, NEW ONES STRENGTHEN. NEW MOVEMENTS ARE BEING FORMED AROUND OLD IDEALS. THE RISE OF HYPER-TRIBALISM THE INTERNET HAS ACCELERATED BOTH DIVISION AND CONNECTION. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 10 “When I speak with the Democrats they’re angry, they’re mean, they’re nasty, they don’t let you get a word in edgewise, they just rip you apart. To the point where you just had to stay away from them.” - Donna, Grosse Pointe, MI
  11. 11. Feelings of rising social inequality and powerlessness have inevitably led to social division. But rather than hope for gradual progress, recent events have showed that many people, regardless of their politics, are willing to fight back. These individuals feel betrayed by the modern world and don’t care about a status quo they think has failed them. They want to feel empowered, not like their voices are being muted by faraway institutions – be it governments or businesses. PEOPLE OF ALL POLITICAL STRIPES HAVE TURNED ON ELITES. 2017 HAS ALREADY BROKEN PROTEST RECORDS AROUND THE WORLD. “There’s too big a gap between politicians and regular people. We were frustrated and angry, so we spoke up, just like America.” - Amanda, Manchester, UK ANTI- ESTABLISHMENT TRADITIONAL POWER STRUCTURES REFUSE TO CHANGE. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 11
  12. 12. Cynical or not, both the Trump and Brexit campaigns successfully tapped into the universal human desire for 
 self-determination. People from all across the political spectrum are demanding more control over the things that influence their lives. They want more say in how the world is run, and they want more power in their hands and the hands of their communities. They want the ability to have an impact on how they live, where they live. PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING MORE CONTROL OVER THEIR LIVES. SELF-DETERMINATION IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL. “People caring about their culture is more important than financial rewards. I’m not a patriot, but I believe in Britain.” - Julian, West Midlands, UK AUTONOMY IS EVERYTHING LOCAL PRIDE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROFIT. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 12
  13. 13. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer and the Economist Intelligence Unit, trust in government, media, NGOs and business has reached an all-time low and continues to decline. In politics, the trust void has led people to embrace more populist messaging and personalities. In business, it’s a tightrope – a more perilous landscape but also one that presents wide open possibilities. FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN IS ON THE RISE. THOSE WHO FILL THE TRUST VOID WILL WIN THE FUTURE. “I do think the entire system needs changing. How I don’t know … we have got to have someone to lead us.” - Matthew, Sheffield, UK TRUST IS GOING EXTINCT TRUST IN INSTITUTIONS HAS CRATERED. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 13
  14. 14. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM SOUND ADVICE FOR BRANDS POLITICS HAVE BECOME INESCAPABLE. SO GET FAMILIAR. We are living in an era where everyday people are lashing back at all forms of authority. Thus far, media and government have been the primary targets of populist uprisings, but businesses and brands are quickly being pulled into the fray.. 14WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  15. 15. If you don’t define your own position - someone else will. If you don’t understand what your customers truly believe - someone else will. If you don’t embrace transparency - someone else will force you to. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM WHY READ THIS? A B By promising to support refugees, Starbucks stuck to their ideals regardless of how many customers they might lose or who they might offend. Budweiser told a classic American story about its founder during the Super Bowl. Many believed it was starkly political even though it wasn’t intended as such. C Uber lost 200,000 users in a single weekend after their breaking of a New York taxi strike incited a viral boycott. D Starbucks took a stand Budweiser’s universal message Uber got caught in an avalanche Patagonia stayed true to their spirit Patagonia pulled out of a Utah trade show in protest of the state’s attempt to strip federal protection of public land. This was met with near universal praise. PREPARE FOR BRAND anarchy. The mood in the streets is volatile and a spirit of anarchy is blossoming all around us. As with politics and economics, consumerism is entering a new phase. In response, numerous multinational brands have taken on strong political positions, while others are having these positions forced upon them. 15WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  16. 16. With a brand in the White House, all brands are being seen through a political lens. Dollars are aligning with ideals like never before. Brand boycotts have become an international sport. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM WHY READ THIS? PROTEST IS THE new brunch. People are looking for leadership on issues of real consequence – issues that are no longer restricted to the ballot box. Out of this leadership vacuum, we’re seeing the emergence of a new authenticity, one based on action rather than “ethics” - but more importantly - an authenticity based on ideals which you actually believe in. OLD AUTHENTIC Ethical brands Curated identity Social responsibility NEW AUTHENTIC Contrabrands Radical transparency Social action 16WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  17. 17. Universal symbols have been inverted overnight and the meaning of everything is up for grabs. Understanding what is both uniting and disuniting your customers is now critical. While trust in government and media is at an all- time low, an opportunity for brands has opened up to build new bridges. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM WHY READ THIS? TV2’s ‘All that we Share’ campaign highlights what brings us together, rather than what divides. The ad from the Danish broadcaster took a diverse and initially divided group of people and found the common ground they shared. BECOME THE new universal. Never has it been more important to challenge your assumptions about your brand’s core audience and learn who they really are, what they truly believe in and most crucially: what they have in common. 17WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  18. 18. Trump and Brexit aren’t outliers. Shocks to the system and waves of upheaval are replacing the status quo. Brands that don’t understand the hidden feelings of their audience risk both crisis and irrelevance. Brands that discover how to unify their customers will build the relationships of the future. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM WHY READ THIS? WHAT’S IN YOUR war room? Brands have long had strategies for dealing with recalls, and now they have strategies for dealing with the president’s tweets. But are they prepared for an unforeseen viral customer uprising? Discover your unknown unknowns: what are the invisible fault lines running through your brand’s audience? You may not want to take a political position, but in this climate even non-political messaging can be misinterpreted as partisan. Awareness of these fault lines is vital. Now is the time to flip the map, torpedo your bias and challenge your assumptions on who your audience really is. 18WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM
  19. 19. WWW.THESOUNDHQ.COM 19 V A N C O U V E R | N E W Y O R K | L O N D O N | T O R O N T O | C H I C A G O | M U M B A I W W W . T H E S O U N D H Q . C O M
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