Should anything really be taboo?

Day One Podcast: Insights Room 101

Episode 14: Hannah Marcus

In this new season of the Day One podcast – Insights Room 101, our host Hannah Mann is joined by her new co-host Abigail Stuart, co-founder of Day-One Strategy. In Room 101, a guest describes three of their worst insight industry pet peeves and aims to lock one of them away forever in Room 101, much like the popular British TV show. Our guest on this episode is Hannah Marcus, cultural researcher and strategist. With her deep expertise in the taboo sector, Hannah provides insightful perspectives on the impacts of embarrassing and unspoken topics on individuals and society. Hannah joins us on The Day One podcast to share what things in the industry she’d like to see banished to Room 101 forever. The main pet peeves Hannah describes are: Sanitised Taboos, “Hard to Reach” demographics, the phrase “Divide and Conquer” and using social listening as a full solution. Hannah provides meaningful criticism during our conversation, and we hope you enjoy it.

Hannah Marcus reveals that her first proposal for Room 101 is the idea of ‘sanitised taboos’. Raising the interesting question “should anything really be taboo?”, Hannah asks should we be comfortable talking about everything? Hannah goes on to reveal that in her experience, as something becomes less taboo, something else will usually replace it. She gives the example of the piqued interest in gut health, transforming something that was once taboo into a trendy wellness trend, whereas other “less sanitised” health issues, such as Crohn’s disease, lack similar representation and openness.

Diving into this further with our hosts Hannah and Abigail, we look at how culture has a huge impact on what is considered a taboo topic, what brands are doing a great job at breaking taboos and starting the right conversations, and how technology has allowed people access to information surrounding taboo topics such as women’s health.

Hannah’s second pick for Room 101 is the idea of “hard to reach” demographics. Hannah highlights the fact there are people not included in research, and that are excluded from the narrative, due to access barriers. She believes the language “hard to reach” suggests that it is their fault they are hard to reach and is used by researchers as an excuse for not engaging with certain groups. Proposing the alternative to the phrase as “easy to ignore”, Hannah remarks on the interesting connotations where it puts the blame onto the people who are doing the ignoring, rather than the people who are not being reached.

Hannah’s final nomination is her personal bugbear, the misuse of the phrase “divide and conquer”. Hannah reveals the true meaning of the phrase and how she has experienced time and time again people using it incorrectly, again examining the importance of the language we use.

As a final discussion point, Hannah Marcus considers the value in social listening. For certain subjects, particularly taboo topics, the insights that can be revealed from social are powerful and often not found from other research methods. It can give you some really big clues as to where you need to go deep that you wouldn’t have had sight of otherwise. What it comes down to is the right methods for right topics.

Hannah, Abigail and Hannah agree to banish sanitised taboo topics to Room 101.  We enjoyed the conversation, and we hope you do, too.

About – Hannah Marcus:

Hannah is cultural researcher and strategist with a deep expertise in the taboo sector and the ways embarrassing and the unspoken impact both individuals and society. Her work includes explorations and investigations into global health taboos, foundational narratives of incontinence, erectile dysfunction, menopausal experiences and the language of vaginal pain conditions. Her work on unmet needs in women’s health won her the MRS Health Award in 2020, and she continues to explore taboo and hard-to-discuss topics in her role as a trustee at Talking Taboos, which is a charity designed to highlight the impact and solutions of taboos that affect mental and physical health.

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Abigail Stuart