Messages Don’t Work Anymore

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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s not about messages anymore. Bucky.


Because we are maxed out on messages.

To quote a man of great insight:

“Well, I’m ramblin’, ramblin’ ’round, I’m a ramblin’ guy, I’m ramblin’, oh, yes, oh, yes! Free to get in. I’m a ramblin’ guy – R-A-M-B-L-I-N apostrophe, oh yes, I’m ramblin’ — Ramblin’ to New York City, N-Y-C! Rent a car, get a hotel, for only two hundred dollars a day. Oh, yes. Okay, everybody! I’m a ram– Come on! Sing with me! Come on, have some fun, come on!  Ramblin’ … Are you people uptight or somethin’? You can’t sing along–? Oh, I forgot… New York. Okay! All right, ladies only! Oh, look! A ramblin’ guy! Come on! Okay, this half of the room! Beautiful! Now this half! Good, good! All right, two fifths! Now, three-fifths! Good. Seven-ninths! Two-ninths. All right, in Chinese now! Well, I’m ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’, ramblin’! Ram! Mah! BLINNNN! Heyyyy!”

 – Steve Martin

Messages, schmessages

There are just too many sound bites, too many media carrying too much information, too much detail, too much yada, dada, dada out there. Way too much content marketing ramblin, ramblin all over the place.

And isn’t it ironic? In an age when people have the attention spans of gnats and the spare time of a may fly, we continue to inundate them with messages and wonder why they don’t remember them.

Or care about them.

In fact, they care more about their tan then they do about yet another message from you, my friend.

A sign of the times

I drive in to work and back home everyday. It’s only about 30 miles, but I’m forced to do it in the midst of Chicago’s unpredictable expressway mayhem.

In an effort to help poor bastards such as myself, the highway commission installed digital signs to tell me the travel time to key points along my way under the current traffic conditions and to warn me of accidents and slowdowns.

Thank you very much, highway commission.

This is valuable, useful, even vital, information because it helps me decide what adjustments I need to make to get to work on time.

But why stop there?

In their wisdom for what’s best for me and their own strategic interests, they’ve now added messages chiding me for speeding, (while I’m in a traffic jam, mind you) a running count of traffic deaths, a warning about texting while driving, and a command to put my seatbelt on.

You guessed it.

All that extra rambling and the time it takes to display it now makes it impossible for me to see that one bit of usable, vital, information that really helps me and for which the digital signs were installed in the first place.

And that, in microcosm, is precisely why messaging doesn’t work anymore.

What does work?

Brand experiences. And the stories that come from them.

By that I mean creating experiences that help people do something they want or need to do and that the brand can enable them to do because of its overriding purpose.

Those kinds of experiences are memorable and incredibly compelling. And they create stories that make the experiences sharable. And forge connections within your tribe.

Many of them come in the form of digital platforms and apps, calculators, community connectors and utilitarian programs that help and serve people.

Change your questions

So the next time you’re putting together one of those monumental message maps that’s going to change the world, stop and change your point of view instead.

  • Don’t ask, “ What do we want to say?”
  • Ask, “What do we want to be?”
  • Ask, “Who is our tribe?”
  • Ask, “How do they see the world?”
  • Ask, “How can we help them?”
  • Ask, “What experiences can we create to help?”

But above all, don’t let your message rambling and your rambling messages get in the way of your helping.

This is important.

In fact, understanding the power of experience over messages and doing something about it is the most important job you have next to keeping Gary Busey off the nation’s highways.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

Photo credit: Scoboco