“Hell is other people” And The Eyes of Others

Came across a quote this morning that really got me thinking. “Hell is other people,” writes Jean Paul Sartre. Now, admittedly, we all presumably share this admonition once in a while — when we’re on public transportation, Black Friday shopping or simply seeking a moment for our selves. But I needed to get to the bottom of what Sartre meant with this.

Coming in his one-act play No Exit, what Sartre is postulating here is that we can’t possibly know ourselves — or perhaps even experience our true selves — without weighing what others think of us.

This is a central tenet of advertising and a core function of Account Planning which, after all, is founded in perception. We judge ourselves based on the means of others. Like Sartre, we Planners must constantly step outside of ourselves and wonder what others are thinking.

Sartre is saying that we cannot really know ourselves without taking into consideration how we are regarded by others. Again, not only true of Planning as a somewhat tenuous discipline, but also of how we position our brands. After all, it’s always easier to see through our eyes than the eyes of others.

“Other” people are so important, we cannot complete our puzzles without them. We can’t possible know who we are — or who our brands are — without this perceptual shift.

“Hell is other people.” And Account Planners must know Hell better than themselves.

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