Friends familiar with my past know that I was once a musician struggling to make it big as a rock star. Water over the dam, I suppose…but I actually learned a lot about marketing and advertising during my failed flail at stardom.
Now in the world of brand strategy and creative communications, I’m often reminded of a tryout we had to replace our guitarist who left. One young hopeful came into the studio, cranked his amp up to 11, and started riffing as loud and as fast as you can imagine. It sounded like a herd of elephants trampling several flocks of geese at once. Think Eddie Van Halen on speed.
When this auditioner was done with his very self-aggrandizing display, our drummer looked at him deadpan and simply said, “Dude…rests are notes too, ya know.”
Figuring Out What Notes Not to Play
“It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.”
– Dizzie Gillespie
We see this in marketing communications all the time. The overreach. The overplay. The over-saturation of message and media, to the point where it becomes counterproductive. Most brands don’t even recognize they’re doing it. They have either employees or agencies on hire who think they are being evaluated by the sheer volume of output. (And, alas, perhaps they are.)
But in this modern environment, where we are all suffering from content shock, more is less. And I don’t mean that to be a cute turn-of-phrase. With finely tuned algorithms now determining what content is served up to users/viewers/searchers/readers/etc., shared media like Google, Facebook (and now even Twitter!) are now mathematically engineered to keep your brand out of my proverbial face. If you want to engage with me, you’d better be engaging!
As marketers, no longer can one simply program robots (real or personified) to drip-and-drab ho-hum content on a steady trickle…in the hopes that something will resonate with someone at some point. The media you’re using to broadcast messages, and the people on the receiving end of them, are driven not by your ability to proliferate tomes of meaningless content, but rather by the quality and the engage-ability of that content. Really. It’s in the math.
This Means You, Everyone. (Well, Not Everyone)
I’m talking about the company that sends out press releases or media pitches whenever their CEO so much as sinks a long putt. Enough already. If everything is news, nothing is. We can’t miss you if you don’t go away every once in a while.
I’m talking about the brand page on Twitter or Facebook who seems to be live-tweeting each passing moment as if they’re a court reporter. Get out of my feed, or I will take you out. (And I’m not the only one.)
I’m talking about the advertiser that insists on screaming out every last gasping breath of “messaging” before the publisher cuts them off and sends the ad to print. The more you say, the less we hear.
Take a Rest. The Next Note Will Shine for It.
“If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.”
– Winston Churchill
What Gillespie, Churchill, my former drummer, and countless other gifted musicians, authors and artists were trying to say is this: The space between the metaphorical notes is what accentuates the beauty in the notes you actually play.
And so it is with marketing. Yes, it’s possible to overdo it. In fact, it’s very tempting to do so, if you ill-define the success metrics. It’s not the amount of notes you play, it’s the effect fewer notes have on the ear that moves the audience. Churchill’s quip points to the reality that it’s sometimes more difficult to say less, and to greater effect. But your audience will reward you for it.
Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter — along with real-life humans — are figuring out ways to tune out the noise. The sooner you do the same, the better.