Marketing

How to get them to hear you

Pankaj Korwar | Updated on January 24, 2018

Tread untrodden paths: United Colours of Benetton launched a sensational an ad campaign featuring images of world leaders kissing. (Above) In this 2011 photo, a man is seen taking pictures of a billboard of a photo montage with France’s then President Nicolas Sarkozy kissing German Chancellor Angela Merkel displayed on a Benetton store in Paris.   -  Reuters

A typical moves and messages, like the launch of an infrequent fliers’ scheme, will startle your audience into paying attention



Unless you are a celebrity, politician or an entity big enough to plaster your message on a five-inch mobile screen or a 50-ft billboard, getting noticed by people beyond your immediate network is a big challenge. The jumble of messages and communication lines surrounding us is more messy than the telephone and electric cables in some streets of old Delhi.

In a scenario like this, how do we succeed in getting our message noticed? How do we make our work and efforts visible?

Get sensational, be a little controversial – these are offhand statements made often and suggested as solutions to marketers to tackle this problem of attention. But being sensational also means risking something. While this solution might work for a few Page 3 celebrities, this is certainly not a recipe for brands and businesses.

So what should brands and businesses or anyone who wants to seek attention and at the same time get their message across do?

There is no single obvious answer to this. Human psychology does offer some pointers, though.

The scheme of thinking

Asking for attention means getting the brain to think about something that it generally tries to ignore. How does the mind think?

The mind either thinks of reference points, stereotypes or at least something to anchor itself to. In most cases, the mind makes use of previously stored information and tries to fit in any new information into the patterns already fixed. The pattern is formed in response to our requirement of processing information better. This pattern or mental concept which informs a person about what to expect from a variety of experiences and situations is called schema. The brain makes use of schema formed over a period of time. Schemas break down our knowledge of the world around and affect what we notice (or ignore). With any new message, our mind tries to resort to the already stored information and tends to ignore anything else. This comes naturally to the brain as it minimises the efforts at processing information.

We can have schemas about ourselves, other people, situations, food, almost everything. For example, the mention of “privileges” inside an airport or a plane for most of us means that it is either for premium passengers or for frequent fliers. Inside an apparel mart, when the store staff approaches to sell us their loyalty programme, our existing schema does not let us think beyond a loyalty card, as that has been a crucial part of our schema formed over the years. No wonder we don’t get excited!

To garner attention from the consumer or the audience, we need to shake or break the schema. This means communication or a real tactic which forces their minds to listen to you.

So after dinner at a fine-dining restaurant, when the waiter brings you a feedback form, it’s difficult to get the guest excited about the questions because the existing schema has prepared the guest about the kind of questions being asked. But what if a person, instead of bringing a form, brings an audio device and asks you to record your thoughts? In any case, talking comes more naturally than writing to a fixed format. That will, indeed, be a schema-shaking method to generate attention and interest in the process.

Some schema-breakers

You want an airline to appeal to the frequent flyers? It’s the infrequent flyers you need to talk to. This breaks the schema that it’s only the frequent flyers who get the benefits while travelling.

United Colours of Benetton is known for its disruptive schema-breaking communication. The Unhate campaign is in the same league. The breaking of schema can happen though visual alteration as well as textual creativity.

Not just big businesses, such messages can come from individuals too. Schema-breaking is not limited to conventional brand promotion. Any idea vying for somebody’s precious attention can benefit from this.

US President Barak Obama’s use of the line Bade bade deshon mein … from the Hindi movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response including the line again breaks the schema of formal communication.

Same as ‘unusual’?

An effective schema-breaking act or communication will always be in the realm of core expectation and therefore cannot be termed as unusual. After all, why can’t world leaders use a dialogue from a Bollywood movie? Or, why shouldn’t infrequent flyers not have access to privileges? In the process of disrupting a schema, the objective remains the same. What makes it unusual is its relative non-occurrence, the simple reason being it’s difficult to be different. Schema-breaking communication is not constrained by budgets and costs. It is constrained only by the power of ideas.

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Published on June 04, 2015
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