Words of a Generation

An introduction by Amanda Mooney, Words of a Generation creator, producer, researcher, photographer

About a year back, I shut down my computer, I left the office and I set out on a journey to find, among other things, love and a story of change.

Supported by the counsel and help of David Brain, Christina Smedley and our Edelman team, I took a three-person crew to four cities in China to meet 28 people from China’s '70s generation.

Sitting in their homes, hearing their stories and meeting their families and neighbors confirmed what I’ve been feeling for a long time in my work, a feeling that first inspired the idea for Words.

Often, as marketers, the more we spend our time trying to position companies in the hearts, and minds, and lives of customers, the less we seem to stay personally connected to the real hearts, and minds, and lives of customers.

We sit at our desks. We search for clues in data. We see customers as a collection of numbers that indicate market potential. We think about them in the context of finite purchase occasions. We work very hard to understand people as “consumers.”

We get lost in the middle of it- chasing trends, chasing platforms, chasing competitors. People become an abstraction as we strategize.  In the process, we forget the simple magic and the responsibility of really, truly getting to know customers as people and, in this part of the world, as people who have lived through extraordinary change.

Our first shoot in China has grown into a six-country short film series that will take viewers into the lives of 10 people who have lived through and are pushing rapid transformation in each country. 

Their stories are brought to life through short episodes, with music by Erasmus Talbot and crafted with the counsel and support from David BrainCornelia Kunze and a six-country team of advisors and production assistants.

We use film as our medium because we didn’t want you to read their stories in a report. We wanted you to see them, to feel the emotion behind their words, to get a personal window into their homes and lives.

Each change generation is carefully selected by senior advisors in each country.  

Each episode is crafted after taking hundreds of pages of transcripts from our interviews with participants, cutting each line into tiny, individual strips of paper, standing back and looking for the story that emerges from their words. We search for the differences that define an individual and the generation as well as the universal similarities that resonate across individuals, generations and cultures.

In the end, Words shows up as a set of seven films, a few hundred photos and a story of change from 10 people who have lived it.

If you remember nothing else from these films, I hope you remember to take the time to listen to your customers as people.

I hope that you don’t just listen to the parts of their lives that you think will help drive a KPI, skim headlines to get a general sense of the change that surrounds them, or listen only when it's time to plan. I hope you take time to listen to their whole story, their pressures, their aspirations- big, small and unresolved. 

I hope that after you listen, you plan, improve and build for them. 

Thank you for taking the time to watch the series, to all of our incredible participants who have been kind enough to invite us into their homes and to a small army of collaborators, advisors and friends who have worked so hard to help us bring Words to life.