Can You Hear Me? Consistency and a Hearable Message

“Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

—Pink Floyd

I came upon the Jerry Seinfeld, “Don’t break the chain” reference twice in two days this week. If you have not heard it, it’s a recollection from Brad Isaac of some useful and practical advice he was given by an up-and-coming Jerry Seinfeld. Here is an excerpt from the post Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret on LifeHacker:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day.

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

The principal illustrated here is a combination of consistency, practice and perseverance. Plus—in this case—creating a physical and psychological reminder to keep you on track.

These same principals—and the tools even—apply to branding and marketing (and a lot of other things). Consistency yields results. Doing something really well—because you have practiced a great deal—means a lot. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule.

I absolutely agree with Jerry Seinfeld’s advice: “Don’t break the chain.” But he is also a living example that demonstrates how much more there is to it than just consistency, practice, and perseverance—valuable as these are. Critical for him—and for you—is WHAT you are saying, and how well it is heard and understood.

Have you stuck with your pitch too long? Are you singing a familiar song … primarily to yourself? Are you talking about your product or organization in a way that makes sense to your target audience?

Consistency yields results. Doing something really well—because you have practiced a great deal—means a lot.

Jerry Seinfeld was writing jokes EVERY day and then testing them on live audiences. The feedback mechanism here is very robust. The objective is also very clear: Make them laugh. You probably don’t have such an expedient circuit to know if your audience really gets what you are saying.

We humans DON’T process most of what comes into our field of awareness, even if it’s seemingly very obvious stuff. Brand messaging and marketing are critically affected by this.

I’m sure you remember the experience of learning some new word, a word you were sure you’d never heard before. And then you walk out into the world, and that word is everywhere. It was always there, of course. You just couldn’t hear it before. This seems impossible, but think about your experience.

Likewise, your target consumer cannot hear what you are saying until you speak in a language they understand. We all hear selectively.

Likewise, your target consumer cannot hear what you are saying until you speak in a language they understand. We all hear selectively, as the new word example shows. We also see selectively. If you don’t believe me, try this classic demonstration. Count the “f”s in this paragraph.

Films are flicks that are produced
after years of personal effort, and
of unique knowledge frankly, out
of hard work.

Most people see 3, 4, 5 or 6. Only very few see 9. You are filling in blanks with what you already know or think you already know. Everyone does this ALL the time. Perception is shorthand. It’s actually quite hard to penetrate this automated protective shell. Your mind is busy filtering stuff out BEFORE you are really aware of most of it. It’s saying, “Not important, not for me, not important, not interesting” … and then, “Oh, what’s that?”

So, are you speaking to your consumers in ways that engage them?

Are you?

Think of your audience as comfortably numb—in a seemingly drug-induced state of semi-permanent inattentiveness—and filling the wide periphery of their perception with their OWN thoughts.

Do they really hear and understand what you are saying?

Do they really hear and understand what YOU are saying? Do your brand and marketing images hold meaning and value such that they can comfortably and easily enter and commingle with their thoughts?

I’ll bet you don’t know.

Some practical advice: Find out.

And then test your language and imagery with real people. Do this early and often.

Well-crafted and “hearable” messages without consistency can also fall flat (see The Difference Between Marketing and Branding).

Having both—a consistent and hearable message (and, oh yes, a product or service worth caring about)—is really the secret sauce of successful marketing.

Talk to us if you want to know more about what this might mean for you …

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Featured image credit: Jerry Seinfeld (1997) by Alan Light, used under CC BY 2.0

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Comments

  1. Ashley Acevedo says

    Hi. I read your post and I cannot find the nine “Fs” in that central demonstration paragraph and it is killing me. Is this is a misprint or are my perceptions THAT hard to break out of?

    • James Heaton says

      It is the later. There are nine: “Films” 1, “flicks” 2, “after” 3, “of” 4, “effort” 5, 6, “of” 7, “frankly” 8, “of” 9!

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