Catchy Content? No Magic Formula But Common Elements
"OK. [OK]. Blue Jays. [Blue Jays]. Let's [Let's]. Play. [Play]. Ball."
If you're in Southwestern Ontario like us (or, basically, anywhere in Canada), you may have heard that song a lot lately. I know it's been stuck in my head since the 1980s. In fact, I could likely take a pretty good stab at the actual, non-chorus, lyrics ("Is it a fly ball... or is it a sea gull" -- come to think of it, there was not much faith in Ontario baseball fans back then. Good thing you had us Expos fans to help you through the 'intricacies.')
But there's a valuable lesson in those simple lyrics and the impact they've had on generations of fans. It's the same lesson that can be extrapolated from the fact that some of the best examples of persistent messaging come from music and advertising.
Here's a test. How many of you can finish the following:
- The best part of waking up...
- Like a good neighbour...
- I am stuck on Bandaid brand 'cuz...
- Two all-beef patties, special sauce...
- I'm a pepper, you're a pepper...
You may know some of these messages even if you weren't born when they first came out. That repetition of message can have impact far and wide. Dos Equis not only improved its public perception thanks to its, "I don't always drink beer..." statement, but it also became part of the cultural Zeitgeist, with the "Most Interesting Man in the World" becoming fodder for a meme.
Chanting, singing, and music have long been part of sports. Habs fans (and now other teams) would sing, "Na na, hey hey, goodbye" when the game was out of reach. En masse, Boston Red Sox fans sing along with the chorus of Sweet Caroline. And I'm still haunted by the memories of the Harford Whalers' post-goal celebration song, Brass Bonanza.
European soccer matches will feature fans chanting and singing their way through the game. My contention is that they're trying to do something to distract them from the tedium of the game, but my 'footie' friends assure me that's not the case.
The point is simple and catchy works. Simple and catchy can easily be embraced by the masses. And, more importantly, simple and catchy resonates and persists.
There's no magic formula for business writing and web content. And while it may be easy to deconstruct and analyze why something's catchy (see Chilly Gonzales' amazing analysis of Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off"), actually creating something that resonates takes experience, practice, and talent.
When it comes to crafting content for your business and your on-line communications efforts, the same principles that have allowed these songs, chants, and jingles to resonate can be effectively used to craft your messaging.
It doesn't get any more simple than that Big Mac jingle. It is literally a list of the ingredients in their hamburger. There's no mystery (well, except for what makes the sauce 'special'); there's no curiosity approach employed; it's just a straight recitation of the facts.
On-line, in print, over the airwaves -- no matter how you're delivering your message, you have a limited window of time to do so effectively. So focus on the "What's in it for me?" messaging for your clients. Be clear about the value.
Look at the above list of branded phrases and think about the messages that have resonated with you over the years. How many of them include jargon? How many of them include complex terminology? None? A couple?
Speaking to people in the language that they use every day resonates. There's an overwhelming urge to sound "smarter." Don't. Let the quality of your message and the quality of the product or service you deliver show how "smart" you are.
Understanding your clientele and speaking to them clearly and concisely? That's the smartest thing you can do.
The strongest memories and feelings are not created in isolation -- they're a combination of emotions and senses that add up to a greater whole than the sum of their individual parts.
We like certain songs not because of their musical value, but because they transport us to a period in our past, so they carry the memories and feelings of that time with them. We like certain foods because that's what our parents and grandparents may have made for us. We value certain restaurants, movies, theatre productions, etc. because of whom we were with at the time.
That's why the experience is so important to your business messaging -- both on-line and off. In many cases, there may be little difference between you and your competitor's product. But you can control your customer service, your communication efforts, your interactions, and your messaging. As a result, your product gets a boost in perceived value based upon your other efforts. On-line, you can pair your message with imagery, fonts, and other design elements to craft an impression.
None of those phrases, terms, or jingles instantly stuck in your head. There was a repetition of messaging that, combined with the appeal and simplicity of those messages, worked to embed them into your conscious.
When it comes to crafting content on your site, make sure you reinforce key messages and desired actions. Imagery, calls to action, brand messaging, social networking, and consistent talking points can help to embed a value or image in your customers' minds.
No Magic Formula
Again, there's no secret recipe. There's no formula that you can follow that will guarantee successful messaging. But there are simple principles that you can use to help improve your messaging and, by extension, improve the chances that your message resonates.
If it was easy everyone would do it. It comes from training, experience, practice, and talent. By formula, anyone could have written Shake it Off. Only one person did. But understanding how and why a message resonates can help you reach the top of the charts with your business communications.