Why the word ‘Sonder’ needs to be in every marketer’s vocabulary

Sometimes you just read a book and it brings together all the thoughts you’ve had over the years and distils them together succinctly. Seth Godin’s latest book, “This is Marketing” is my latest.

Rather than being a prescriptive guide, he shares his views on marketing as a way of formalising how companies solve other people’s problems, rather than just solving their company’s problem for more business! A subtle, but unbelievably profound, difference.

I’ve always realised that successful and effective marketing involves empathy with the target market. People often buy from people who are just like them or have the same view of the world. We’ve all heard the stories of people who ‘recruit staff in their own image’. It’s the same sort of thing; we like to be surrounded by people like us.

The key insight says Godin is that “everyone always acts in accordance with their own internal narrative”.

That’s where the word ‘sonder’ comes in. Sonder is defined by the urban dictionary as "the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own."

Once you acknowledge this, you realise that people often don’t have the same beliefs as you, they don’t have the same life experiences as you and often they just don’t want to buy the same things as you.

So as marketer, how to make sense of this? The answer is, as Godin, says “it’s so much more productive to dance with them instead”.

This means marketers can’t second guess their customer’s needs. That’s because every decision maker has a different view of the world that informs their inner voice and hence their decisions. They decide what’s good about your business, your products, your value proposition… not you.

Ask them, engage with them as much as you can and find out more. Discover how your business can make the life better for them or even reduce the jobs that are stopping them be more successful. Be human, be empathetic and use sonder to your advantage.