The Marketing Democracy is a consulting firm that helps marketers, marketing services agencies, and the media integrate their various marketing assets into powerful, integrated marketing solutions. We have specific expertise in finding the powerful intersection between creative (content) and media (channel).

My Ears Can No Longer Hear What You Have To Say

July 5th, 2009

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I have perfect hearing! I wear hearing aids that amplify high frequency sounds and mute ‘dissonant’ sounds so that I can fully participate in life’s conversations. The hearing aids technically correct my hearing; but frankly, I hear better without them. Why? Because I ‘listen’ with greater intent. This personal experience taught me valuable lessons about ‘hearing’….

Don’t think that because my hearing is compromised, you should ‘shout’ at me to be heard. Rather, if you have something important to say, I will use every sensory avenue available to me so that I can truly ‘hear’ you.

1. True hearing involves multiple senses: your voice, your eyes, your expressions/gestures and most importantly: your intentions. The old expression ‘actions speak louder than words’ is profoundly true. I may not clearly hear every word in a literal sense, but your behavior will speak to me on multiple levels.

2. True hearing takes effort on the part of the listener. I no longer ‘passively’ hear a conversation. I actively engage in order to hear. It takes extra effort, and I expect to be rewarded for my effort: either inform me, touch my heart, spark my passion, acknowledge my words, and/or show me that you care. Otherwise, I’ll become frustrated that you put me through such effort when you really had nothing valuable to say. And…I’ll tune you out!

3. Conversations require empathy. I shamefully recall becoming frustrated with my mom when she couldn’t hear me. It wasn’t her fault, but as a child I didn’t understand that I had a responsibility to help her hear what I had to say. Instead, I would mutter under my breath, “Forget about it, Mom.” And, I would move on. We are all accountable for our conversations, and we must do ‘what it takes’ to be heard.

I believe that consumers, today, are hearing impaired in a metaphorical sense. It is no longer easy to ‘hear’ anything above all the noise that bombards consumers. And, while technology can enhance hearing, it can easily become the catalyst of hearing ‘loss’ in the everyday lives of consumers. Consumers are expected to take in multiple conversations through multiple channels (often concurrently) and hear what we have to say to them. As marketers, we tend to ‘shout’ and we expect that consumers will listen to us on our terms.

What if, as marketers, we changed our brand conversations to account for such hearing loss? What if we applied the three lessons described above to our approach to being ‘heard’?

1. All of a sudden, a brand’s behavior will become more powerful than it’s words. And, when we do choose to ‘converse’ with consumers, we will use multiple channels to create a holistic and engaging sensory experience.

2. We will acknowledge the effort that consumers make to engage with brands, and we will continuously reward them for their efforts by providing valuable brand experiences that meet their needs and desires as opposed to our own.

3. And, finally, we will approach marketing with greater empathy. We will openly acknowledge that being a loyal consumer isn’t easy. We will treat the consumer with the respect he/she deserves and make a concerted effort to ensure that he/she heard us on their terms, not ours!


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