Those of you from urban or even suburban environments may not be familiar with the expression ‘post turtle’. Its origins go back to an old joke about a farmer and politics. In general terms a ‘post turtle’ refers to the following dynamic: ‘If you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, it didn’t get there by accident’.
There are several ways to use the post turtle as metaphor. One example follows. The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein quotes Clinton as saying: "If you see a turtle sitting on top of a fence post, it didn't get there by accident." According to Klein, this was Clinton's way of claiming partial responsibility for "the historic prosperity and the global peace that attended his time in office". I won’t argue for or against that claim, however the use of the post turtle in this context is a powerful and colorful way to make a point.
I try to think of the post turtle when evaluating research results for our clients. Often times consumer preferences are clear when it comes to a product concept or an ad campaign. But in order to help our clients deliver the best for their consumers it is important to know ‘why’ or ‘how’. In other words, it is not enough just to know something ‘is’ as there is almost always an explanation ‘why’, and the ‘why’ is almost always instructive to the client.
For example, a company may well know that customers prefer one product over the others. However, in order to optimize the product opportunity and deliver a sustainable success, they benefit greatly from understanding why consumers prefer the product and how they actually use it.
It helps to know how or why the turtle is on the post.