Every time Margaret Thatcher met someone whom she believed to share her views, she apparently used to underline their names on a piece of paper; privately she would refer to them as ‘one of us’. Those who disagreed with her were, by contrast, thought to be barely worth talking and listening to. That confidence in the rightness of her own opinions initially served the British PM well; ultimately, however, it contributed to her downfall. In particular it rendered her incapable of appreciating the vehemence of the opposition to the poll tax she introduced against the advice of some of her ministers.
Similarly, we naturally tend to surround ourselves with like-minded souls. They are probably roughly the same age and more than likely went through similar education, do similar jobs and live in similar homes. Their kids may go to the same schools as ours and enjoy similar leisure activities (that may indeed be how we met them in the first place.) They might support a different football team but they probably have a level of interest in the sport that is very like ours.
The problem with all this compatibility is that it ill-equips us to understand the way that other people think. When I tweeted yesterday about the launch of a set of Game of Thrones wines, one of a number of responses questioned the rationale behind it. How many wine drinkers, their authors variously wondered, would be persuaded to buy something, just because of a link with a television series? The exchanges were wholly reminiscent of the ones following my posts about the Downton Abbey wines and wines bearing the names of rock groups.
Almost needless to say, none of the people who failed to understand the reasoning behind the Game of Thrones wines were fans of the series; they were all wine drinkers who were looking at the world through wine glasses. Of course, it’s not a matter of getting wine drinkers to buy a Shiraz because of a link to Westeros; it’s all about engaging with people who really care about the Starks and Lannisters but have little or no interest in wine. And there are lots and lots of them.
Wine people similarly had difficulty understanding why Concha y Toro signed a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Manchester United. The few who noticed that the deal did not even include the UK were still more perplexed. What they failed to appreciate was the huge popularity of the Man U brand across Asia, in countries where Wayne Rooney is actually more of a star than he is in his own country. In these emerging markets, the link with the team they idolised was immensely powerful.
Less than two years ago, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, a British band many readers born since 1985 may not even have heard of, approached Robinsons Brewery in Cheshire to ask if it would like to produce a beer associated with them.
So, before you dismiss your fellow human beings who happen to prefer Pinot Grigio or White Zin to your favourite, cloudy natural Loire white, or who are more interested in watching X-Factor or football to Shakespeare or Wagner, just ask yourself whether Margaret Thatcher really is the role model you want to be seen to follow.