Subscribe to Red and Blue Customers Newsletter Today

Know the differences so you can grow your business. Free insights delivered to your inbox every week.

Book Preface

In December 2020 I came across a Pew Research study that asked Biden and Trump voters if they thought the other side understood them “very well.” Just 2% of each set of voters said they did. The study also allowed participants to voice what they wanted the other side to know about themselves. The answers are personal, authentic, and revealed two groups that just see the world differently.  

I couldn’t help but wonder how these two different visions of America could not affect the more mundane aspects of daily life - deciding what food to buy, what clothes to wear, or what car to drive. How can two such different ways of thinking not inform what customers choose?  I was hooked on this question. 

I knew I needed something that could serve as a foundation for explaining the differences between conservatives and liberals, and more importantly, something that could serve to explain why they buy what they buy.  I remembered reading George Lakoff’s book, Moral Politics, in the late 1990s, which had the subtitle, “How Liberals and Conservatives Think.” I promptly found my copy and re-read it. Lakoff brought out fascinating differences between the two groups in the 1990s that ring true today. 

Yet I felt I needed something else in my quest. I struggled with his metaphors of  “strict father” and “nurturant parent” to describe conservatives and liberals. It was also clear that Lakoff was strongly predisposed to a liberal worldview. He was, after all, a professor at University of California Berkeley. 

I’m not conservative, but I knew I needed a more dispassionate foundation. If I was going to explore what motivates these two customer groups to form purchase decisions, I needed a different framework, something very neutral and hopefully credible to business people on both sides. 

As I searched through endless articles, books, and academic papers, I kept bumping into the work of a person who would become a central hero to this book: British social anthropologist Mary Douglas. She’s not someone you hear about outside of academic circles, but her work in studying different social groups, including primitive cultures, influenced thousands of students and hundreds of social anthropological research projects.  She was influenced by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist who effectively established the study of sociology and coined the phrase, “collective consciousness.”.  

There was interesting overlap between her work and Lakoff’s even though they operated in two distinct academic disciplines. Seeing the overlap gave me confidence that there was a dispassionate foundation to be had. From there, the framework for understanding customers and markets just kept building until the book emerged.

As you set about reading this book, I ask you to keep three things in mind:

First, I am not a scientist, cognitive linguist, social anthropologist, political scientist, or historian. I am a business person looking for ideas to help businesses grow. I spent a career helping other business people through work focused on communications. At the heart of that work was understanding who the customer is and how to get more of them. 

Mary Douglas was interested in themes that run through social groups and cultures, not explaining every person or behavior. It was the “collective consciousness” that she was after and the same is true for this book. It’s the collective consciousness we need about markets to improve performance - how customers and markets think as a group. 

Second, this book is not about politics, nor does it promote one group over another. It’s about two worldviews - conservative and liberal - and how they inform two large, interesting markets. You won’t find discussion of government policy, political candidates, elections, tax brackets, or redistricting here. I realize that when you hear the words “conservative” and “liberal” it sounds like politics. Politics is just one expression of worldview. There are many others, including what people buy, as you will see. 

Finally, and most important, this book represents a beginning, not an end. Unlike other books about conservatives and liberals or research papers that explore the two groups, this work offers clear testable propositions for business. There will be ideas here that you can use to grow your business using the best possible measure of success - business results - most likely at very little or no cost. If there’s one thing that can bring everyone together in business, it’s more customers saying, “I’ll take one.”

Back to blog