Even complex customers need simple stories

When you have a fantastic brand with lots of powerful messaging and supportive data, it can be tempting to create a story that encompasses it all. But is that really the right thing to do?

Today, I’m sharing a link to a really interesting white paper by ZoomRx. It confirms what many of us already instinctively feel, underpinned by evidence from 30,000 personal sales interactions.

The key points are:

  • Focus on 3-5 key messages and keep them short (10-14 words maximum)
    • Customers who recall more than 5 or fewer than 3 messages about the brand are less likely to prescribe
  • Use data to support your messages, but don’t overdo it
    • Keep it to around 3 data points per message: more than this confuses customers while fewer can lack credibility
  • Make sure your story actually connects the messages to build a compelling proposition

Unsurprisingly, doctors care most about efficacy and safety.

Slightly more surprisingly, these findings are from oncology – an area that is traditionally seen to rely on stories built around colossal amounts of data.

To find out more about building concise, compelling brand stories get in touch with us – we do this for our clients every day.

Interrupting people is way harder than it sounds.
Just ask a Boston cop.

Here’s a little story about how hard it is to get the attention of people who are thinking about something else.

In 1995, 29 year old Kenneth M. Conley, a cop in Boston, was in hot foot pursuit of a suspect. As he chased the man, he ran past a group of his colleagues who were savagely beating another suspect. It turned out that the suspect taking a beating was an undercover cop, Michael Cox – who was so displeased with his colleagues that he pressed criminal charges against them.

Conley was called as a witness at their trial. Under oath, he stated that he hadn’t seen anything. Given that Michael Cox is black, there was a suspicion that racism was involved and the jury didn’t believe Conley. He was later convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, sentenced to nearly 3 years in jail and fined $6000.

But is it possible that Kenneth Conley was telling the truth? There is strong evidence that he may well have been.

Human beings (and other animals) seem to bring two types of attention to the world:

  • The first is a narrow-focused attention to things that we already know to be important. When in this mode we can abstract the object of our attention and ignore everything else.
  • The second is a much broader focus which is alert to the unexpected, the new or the incongruous.

The real kicker though, is that we appear to only be able to bring one type of attention to anything at once.

Why? It may be an energy-saving mechanism. Brains are expensive to run in terms of energy. They may only represent 2% of our body weight, but they take up around 20% of the energy we consume. Saving energy here would be an evolutionary advantage!

This effect has been demonstrated numerous times by authors like Chris Chabris (the invisible gorilla guy) who carried out an experiment based on Kenneth’s experience and discovered that around half of people didn’t see the fight.

Happily for Kenneth, he was exonerated in 2005 and awarded $647,000 in back pay – without ever going to prison. Michael Cox also remained a police officer and in 2022 was appointed as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department.

So, if we are trying to interrupt people who are doing other things, we need to try pretty hard. Predictable, familiar approaches are simply not going to cut it if we want people to see something new.

Is your brand a few bars short of a symphony?

How music and sound can help to capture the hearts of more customers

Is your brand fit for the fight? Of course it is.

I bet your mission, vision and values are all nailed, glued and velcroed down and that your brand promise will never ever be broken. I’m equally sure that key tints of the colour palette are in place, there’s a crystal-clear tone of voice and an x-height demilitarised zone around the logo. (I’m guessing it sits in a corner and is never reversed out of a full-colour image. Right?)

All good so far. But can you describe to yourself, your colleagues, and your customers what your brand actually sounds like?

If not, why?

Visual consistency and tonally-compliant writing are your table stakes – critical yet necessary.

However, marketers looking to make meaningful connections know that well-developed sonic attributes can help their brand perform at its brilliant best.

Beethoven’s Dopamine Symphony

The last two decades have given us endless sonic brand triggers and a plethora of brand sound designs wide enough to make Phil Spector’s wig spin.

But research has proven that hearing songs that we like triggers a dopamine release. And, as we all know, dopamine = pleasure. But, interestingly, even the anticipation of hearing likeable songs, or upcoming parts of songs, is enough to release dopamine in some people.

Beethoven, it’s reckoned, used anticipation expertly in many of his scores. He would define the tonic chord, then never actually play complete versions of the tonic until the very end…finally fulfilling audiences’ expectations and letting loose a commensurate deluge of dopamine in the run-up.

Clever huh?

Now, imagine a pleasurable song happened to be your brand’s sound. Suddenly, you’re engaging with customers on a very different, multi-sensory level. You’re making them happy. They want to hear from you. They feel positive about your brand. So they’re more likely to tell others. What’s not to like?

But wait. It gets even better.

There is solid evidence that music can actually change the type of attention we are paying to the world around us. Iain McGilchrist (author of The Master and his Emissary) proposes that listening to music in a major key, or with a simple rhythm, tends to attract the narrow-focused attention that we use our left brain to generate. Conversely, McGilchrist argues that minor key songs, or those with a more complex time signature, tend to attract the more open attention of the right brain.

Could bespoke deliver an even better ROI?

Music is beautifully abstract, yet very powerful. It’s pure escapism, guiding emotions effortlessly through major and minor tones. And it’s memorable. Why else would we claim to suffer from ‘earworms’ or use phrases like “the soundtrack of my life/year/day”?

In practical terms, music and sound can make a congress experience more memorable; they can help an e-detail or other face-to-face sales piece create a more vivid experience by supporting the tone of the piece as the story develops.

Four watchouts when creating sonic branding

Creating the right sonic landscape for your brand could be the best commercial commitment you make this year. But it’s wise to beware the pitfalls. Wary treading is essential, as is the need to follow these recommendations:

  1. Commit to making sound an integral part of your brand’s architecture and devote concerted energy to getting it absolutely right.
  2. Determine the role(s) that sound will play in your brand’s presence – do you need it to support content, help lead the conversation, introduce innovations?
  3. Think carefully about the character of your brand and decide how best to reflect this in a brief.
  4. Diversify the talent you involve in your brand’s sound creation. Don’t be afraid to mix creatives, planners, colleagues, and music professionals.

If you need any further help, my Bontempi organ is plugged in and ready to go! You hum it, I’ll play it.

Got a technology question? Steve Jobs still has the answer.

A client recently asked us for our opinion on which technology software solutions could best support the creation of customer journey mapping within their company.

It reminded me of a famous Steve Jobs YouTube clip from the 1997 Apple worldwide developer conference. There he was, in his trademark black polo neck, perched casually on a bar stool, taking questions from the floor. There’s a good chance you might have seen it too as it’s been watched by millions of people.

One man in the audience stood up and says: “Mr. Jobs; you are a bright and influential man” (so far so good) but then he added, “…it’s sad and clear that, on several counts, you don’t know what you are talking about. I would like you, to express in clear terms, how say, Java addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc…”

Essentially, what this man was saying to Steve Jobs was: “you don’t understand the technology”. His answer to the challenge was: “You’ve got to start with customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology.” And everyone knows how well Apple grew under Steve Jobs.

And this is perhaps the best answer to any question that starts with “Which technology can help us with…?” We are often involved in meetings where it becomes clear that there’s a belief, a hope, that technology might answer a bigger strategic need. But that’s a dangerous place to be. The only way to effectively answer the “which technology…” questions is to first ask “what are the needs we are trying to meet – and what is the customer / user experience that we are trying to create?”.

At wethepeople, we believe that understanding people, and how they behave, must always come first. We build marketing strategies and campaigns using techniques based on how our minds have evolved to function. If you are interested in how wethepeople can accelerate the effectiveness of your marketing activity, and indeed help you to answer the big technology questions, then get in touch.