Am I relevant? And does it matter?

In the advertising industry, the word “relevant” is right up there with buzzwords like “content” and “engagement”. It’s important to brands that they are relevant to their consumers and their target audience, otherwise they fail to grab the attention they need to get their point across. Relevancy is increasingly becoming the golden egg when writing content or developing strategies. What’s relevant to athletic teenage boys? How about households with an annual income of $125K+? 30-year-old stay-at-home moms of kids ages 2-4?

It’s easy to roll your eyes at things like this, but these are serious conversations people in my industry have on a regular basis – and I’ve been the initiator of many of them. And it’s happening outside of advertising, too. Is your resume relevant to the job you’re applying for? Is your hashtag relevant to the tweet you just posted? Are your clothes relevant in light of today’s fashion trends? Is your anecdote relevant to this conversation? Are you relevant? Am I? Does it matter?

Yes. And no. I think it only matters if you’re willing to move past relevance and into a relationship – in the loosest form of the word. Being relevant is a way we make connections with people and places and things. It’s a way we relate with each other. But if you don’t take that connection further, then the whole effort is lost. If you don’t commit to a relationship with that person or audience or target market, then it’s just a one-sided conversation where you are just showing off, a decorative mask with a mannequin behind it.

And I fall into that a lot. Sometimes I want to be relevant for the sake of being noticed – Look at me! I’m relevant! – but unless I’m using it as a tool to connect with someone, it’s really just a waste of time and kind of narcissistic, to be honest. Brands do this, too. They think if they use a certain color that tested well or show a certain scene because millennials will like it, that the campaign will be a success. But unless they offer to go deeper than that, to truly connect with the consumer on a deeper level, then they will always lose. And risk looking incredibly stupid.

So what’s the answer? Authenticity. Just because your audience likes chocolate ice cream doesn’t mean you have to like chocolate ice cream. Find something else to talk about, something you actually have in common. Stop trying to be something you’re not. And people will like you more for it.

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