A “media expert” said a few things yesterday that got me questioning. “Our attentions spans are shrinking,” she said, “So we need to speak in sound bites so we can speak directly to what people need. If you can speak in sound bites, then you will stand out above everyone else.”
The implication was this:
Speak in sound bites –> Gets the right people’s attention –> Makes you more money.
There is a collective trend toward efficiency, sassiness, and quips. But as a creative, a solo-enterpriser, someone who aspires to innovate within her field, do you want to perpetuate this trend? Is that quippy attitude really you? These are questions I raise to my clients.
And are our attention spans shrinking? If so, must we speak in sound bites to get our “right people’s” attention in order to reach our market? These are questions I’m living in today.
The Internet changes our brains. It changes the ways we remember, the ways we feel, the ways we think. We cannot deny that claim. Whether this change is for better or worse, the verdict remains out, although the verdict leans toward the worse. Nicholas Carr summarized much of the latest research up to 2010 in his May 24, 2010 piece “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brain”:
Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.
I think of William James’s distinction between attention styles. One group aims toward the bull’s eye, he says. Their minds shut out all distractions. The other group, though, might experience the target’s peripheries as full of “meteoric showers of images” that shoot ideas in various directions simultaneously. They must repeatedly pull back their hyper-associative mind to the target.
James didn’t think the one-pointers were any more intelligent than the scatter-shooters. “[T]he strength of his desire and passion,” he claimed, was more important than the faculties of focus. See Winifred Gallagher’s book Rapt: Attention and Focused Life, The Penguin Press 2009 for more on James and this subject.
But when Richard Restak reviewed most of the research to date in 2005 in his book The New Brain: How the Modern Age is Rewiring Your Mind, he said that the research indicated a truth that should stand out to anyone who aspires to excel within his or her field:
Surgeons, athletes, chess players, scientists, artists, and writers who stood out above others in their field had the capacity to focus for an extended period of time on one idea, task, or project.
Still, there is richness in wandering. I admit I’d like to be a meandering one-pointer.
So, if you want to “stand out above others,” and if you want to build a platform from an authentic place – by definition, from a place of your best voice’s authority – do you follow the media expert’s advice and speak in sound bites, or do you focus for an extended period of time on what matters most to your best self, to your creative field, and to the people you serve, and communicate from that space and in a language and design that befits that space?
There is an arrow that shoots straight across the horizon from left to right. It gets to the point. It stays on the surface.
There are waves that extend downward, vertically, from the arrow’s path. They are rich with loops, links, emotions, images, stories, play, and sentences that – like acrobat-comedian performers – roll on unpredictably until they wind up at some diner in East Texas. They are inefficient, deep, meaningful, nuanced, and memorable.
Call this The Arrow of Marketing and the Waves of Meaning-Making.
We need both.
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The Tao te Ching was written for Chinese leaders and warriors. Call it an early “how-to” book for leading authentically.
The Tao of Authentic Marketing might go something like this:
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.
That’s #24. I stumbled upon it before dinner yesterday evening. It seemed more palatable than the media expert’s advice.
Here are some counter-ideas that read like sound bites:
Speak in sound morsels, not sound bites.
Be weird if your soul’s weird. This isn’t high school.
Keep language alive and honor artful ambiguity. It slows people down. (And we need slowness.) (And we also need more parenthetical comments.)
Question conventional wisdom about marketing. Especially when it’s delivered in shouts or with sassy tones or with bad sex analogies.
Drop in the Hut:
What guides your marketing strategy? What “conventional wisdom” of marketing do you question?
See you in the woods,