By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
You're forgiven if you didn't notice, but for the past couple of years, the General Mills cereal called "Trix" has been available only in a "heathier" version. That means that it kept all the sugar, but lost the artificial coloring, using vegetable and fruit ingredients instead. Apparently, there are some fans of the cereal who are old enough to send emails and post to social media, and those Trix fans complained that the new colors are dull or missing (nature apparently couldn't replicate the blue or the green in Trix, so those colors were pulled from the new version). Finally giving in to the complaints, General Mills announced last week that they would reintroduce the old bright but artificially-colored version, and even follow the Coca-Cola route of calling it "Trix Classic."
All of this is detailed in a recent story in The Washington Post, and serves as a cautionary tale of audience analysis. With more than half of Americans wanting fewer artificial ingredients, one might think that moving to a more natural version of Trix was a solid business move. However, this is a case of what is true of the aggregate not being true of the subset. Bottom line, it turns out that if you are one of those who care about artificial ingredients, then you're probably not one of those eating Trix in the first place. It seems simple when you consider it that way, but the mistake of misjudging the audience and, more specifically, imputing the general to the particular, is a mistake that can be made in litigation as well. Without being conscious of it, lawyers might also be strategizing and speaking to what may be generally true, but not necessarily true in the specific audience. In this post, I'll share an applicable rhetorical concept, the Universal Audience, and share some thoughts on ways litigators can avoid the assumption that what's true of the many is also true of the few.