What Mondegreens Can Tell You About Marketing: I myself have a fantastic talent for mishearing song lyrics – a very specific (but common) example of a mondegreen; the term for when individuals hear words differently to how they have been said. A couple of classics from my own experience include, “I sometimes wish I’d never been boiled in oil” (Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody) and “No Dukes of Hazzard, in the classroom” (Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall). [responsive]
Still, I don’t think anything will top my friend Danny at university who, at the height of the Black Eyed Peas’ fame and at a time when UK petrol prices were (in fairness) soaring, loudly declared:
“Fill up my car; miles are tough”.
The real lyrics are, of course, from the song ‘I Got A Feeling’ and run:
“Fill up my cup; Mazel tov.”
Mondegreens and Marketing – Where’s the Link?
So, what does this have to do with marketing?
Admittedly, this is more a post about something I find quite interesting – psychology, strange phenomena and things that connect us all. However, there is a point.
Good marketing should not run the risk of creating a ‘mondegreen message’. Keep your messages clear, simple and to the point. If your prospects can’t understand what you’re saying (whether it’s written, verbal or visual) then they are less likely to engage with your offer further and thus less likely to actually buy anything from you.
I’ve recently worked on a project which involved a chameleon, traditionally an animal that blends in and doesn’t stand out – not normally ideal traits for a business. For reasons which are irrelevant to this post, the chameleon had to stay, and so we had to create a message that very clearly articulated why that animal was relevant, and explain this to the prospect reading the literature. It went very well – because we were clear, compelling and created a great story to explain the relevance; people couldn’t misinterpret![responsive]
To break this down slightly more, let’s go back to mondegreens, and hearing.
In humans, hearing is a two-step process. The process of the sound waves actually making their way through the air, and in to your ear, is the first; followed by the second part, which is your brain unscrambling the vibrations and translating it in to something discernible.
(As a side note, this is why if you don’t know the language, you can often not hear the gap between words – because your brain isn’t capable of actually understanding the way to translate these vibrations in to something you understand – it’s just babble!)
With mondegreens, this process doesn’t happen as it should. In the same way that when we listen to a foreign-language speaker we can’t discern breaks between words, with some speech (especially songs) we can’t see the speaker’s mouth. Combined with interference, this makes it difficult for our brain to see the breaks in words, and we instead replace them with something (anything) which might make sense (not necessarily in context).
So, with our marketing collateral, we need to ensure that our ‘listeners’ can hear what we have to say – and we can also provide visual cues (such as an image of the product, or the intended outcome for instance).
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