It’s no secret that we live in an ADD world. Smartphones, tablets, text messaging, the Internet, streaming video — they all conspire to sap audience attention spans. On this point, the research is pretty clear. Studies have shown that the average human attention span fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. Some say it’s even shorter now, about 8 seconds, and still, others put it at 2.3 seconds under certain conditions. So, with all of this distraction, how do you create a brand that people will truly remember?
Repeat it. A lot.
In his book, Successful Advertising, Thomas Smith wrote that audiences must see a message 20 times before acting. Never heard of Smith’s book? You’re probably not alone. But still, it was likely the talk of the industry when published…in 1885. That does not, however, make the underlying premise any less significant. The fact is, Smith’s conclusions are as true today as they were yesterday.
Fast forward to the here and now, and consider this: A Microsoft analysis found that an audio message required between 6 and 20 exposures before truly registering.
The more things (and times) change, the more they stay the same, right?
Maybe, but we’re not here to extol the virtues of redundancy and repetition. We do, however, want to underscore the value of consistency in messaging.
Customize Your Message
We recognize that brands may have multiple audiences, and that those audiences may respond differently (and positively) to more customized messages. So it’s appropriate, even smart, to deliver them what will most likely achieve your desired outcome. That means if you need to tweak your message for different audiences, by all means, do it.
However, these customized messages still need to fit comfortably and logically under a larger umbrella message that defines the brand. Otherwise, you run the real risk of diluting understanding and awareness of the benefits of your product or service. Dilution compromises vision, and a compromised vision can cost you credibility.
Tell the Truth.
Finally, a word about trust.
In the Harvard Business Review, in a piece about trust in the workplace, said inconsistent messaging generally can leave audiences confused and skeptical. It added: “The building blocks of trust are unsurprising: They’re old-fashioned…virtues like consistency, clear communication, and a willingness to tackle awkward questions.”
The same holds true for external communication. If you talk out of both sides of your marketing mouth (i.e., message inconsistently), you are inviting audience distrust. They will be questioning who you really are rather than soaking up what you really promise.
Often when developing a message, brands can drift into a kind of hubris: we know what’s best, we know our product, we know our audience better than they know themselves, etc. While that could very well be true, it doesn’t really matter. If your audience comes into the brand conversation with a view that conflicts with yours, and you ignore it and push forward with your own message regardless, it’s going to raise red flags. Red flags don’t inspire trust.
We’re not suggesting that you pander. We are, however, saying that you need to war-game your brand message — identifying audience objections ahead of time and acknowledging them in your thinking — in order to ensure it respects and is consistent in some way with the values and beliefs of those you’re targeting.
There’s a famous line in a Pulitzer Prize-winning play: “Always tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.” In many ways, that captures a key argument for brand consistency. Tell the truth about your product, tell it often, and never stray from it. That will make it easier for audiences to remember.