How John Oliver and Dick Pics gave us a first hand lesson in knowing your customer.

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver recently aired an interview with Edward Snowden discussing the issues of mass surveillance and the American people.

During the “on the street” interview segment with innocent bystanders, most people either had never heard of Snowden or were misinformed of why they know him. Oliver, and other popular talk show hosts frequently use this tactic of approaching random, unsuspecting people on the street because it makes for great television. However, often times it reflects a much larger issue of misinformation or quite possibly the fear of being on camera. 

While mass surveillance is an important topic, John Oliver showed us something of a different type of importance… Knowing your customer.

More importantly, knowing what your customer wants to hear. 

In the tech space there are many strategies of how to do this A/B tests, Smoke Tests, Etc… and companies spend billions on figuring this out.

What Oliver does is a perfect example taking people who don’t know they have a problem (your potential customers) and turning them into (potential) evangelists.  The American people (actually, everyone should be but Americans seem to be the target here) should be concerned about what the government knows about them, but when described in nebulous phrases and technical speech… a la most startups’ messaging… nothing resonates with the people on the street. 

As soon as he puts the problem into words that strikes fear in the eyes of the people on the street, Oliver gets the people going.  Once people understand that every “Dick Pic” sent via email, sms, or messenger can be located by the NSA, he could have convinced them to pay BIG sums of money for the solution- completely overlooking the fact that these services exist in the form of encrypted messaging apps.

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