Seven seconds. That’s all it takes for people to decide if a song is worth listening to, or not. Seems short, but in the scheme of things, that’s actually a decent amount of time. As we are all consumed by content and demands on our time, listening to music can be a tiny break from our busy lives. We often listen in contained environments – sitting in cars or running on the treadmill. But how do you keep that captive audience listening to your song? The secret is in the hook. Or, in multiple hooks, according to a New Yorker article I read recently. If you can’t grab people in the first seven seconds then, you’ve lost them.
That got me to thinking about the similarities with the corporate world. Take the boardroom. Executives have notoriously short attention spans—lots on their minds, demands on their time and not a lot of extra headspace for ideas that don’t grab their attention. Seven seconds sounds about right. If you don’t hook them with an idea, the opportunity is missed. Once the cell phones and laptops come out it’s the same as if they’ve changed the channel.
As a brand strategist, selling the right idea is the job. When you’re talking in the abstract, it’s hard to get people excited. Thick PowerPoint decks just don’t cut it anymore. They get left in desk drawers and often don’t see the light of day. So how do you make an idea stick? Taking lessons from the entertainment industry doesn’t hurt.
“Drop it like it’s hot.”
Hook #1: Catch Phrases
Make it snappy.
Yes, your ideas need to be distilled down and conveyed in a simple way. But most of all you need to leave people with something memorable. Crystallizing the idea into a phrase that has personality helps bring it to life. When creating a new concept for a national restaurant chain, we needed the initial idea to take seed. Long before the brand was developed, the thing that got them hooked was a phrase we used to describe the experience. “Roast Up” became our anthem. It symbolized the essence of the brand, the food platform and the service. And it still lives on. The easier it is to repeat, the more likely they are to repeat it.
“I’ve got the moves like Jagger.”
Hook #2: Metaphors & Analogies
Get everyone on the same page.
A universal way to conjure up a vision in someone’s head, analogies help provide a common reference point. Using popular brands or people help us visualize the abstract. The more popular the reference is, the more universal the analogy becomes. We’ve all heard phrases like “apple-like” or “target-esque” which helps put design into context. And then there’s the mash up. New retail and restaurant concepts are often described by combining two existing stores to give a feel for the new concept. Starbucks meets Hooters brings an instant image to mind. Albeit not necessarily appealing to all, it certainly helped a new breed of “sexy cafes” sell their idea to investors. While using examples can be polarizing, it also provides a common ground that can rally a group of people behind one idea.
“So, call me maybe.”
Hook #3: The Parody
Let them live it.
It’s hard to make the jump from descriptive words to a physical manifestation. The music video has added a visual to songs that let artists be more creative. And now the song parody has taken over as people add their own meaning and passion to songs. A splash of design can go a long way for making an idea feel real. But even better is getting the executives themselves to experience the idea. Often times they are the ones left to sell it through long after consultants are gone. Sketches, drawings, renderings and graphics help give it a face – but a mock up, however crude, helps people live it. Whether sitting in chairs pretending you’re in a car or acting out an entire restaurant experience in a foam core mock up, the key is getting people up and out of their seats to experience it first hand. When you’re trying to create buy-in, active participation provides a lasting impression of what the concept feels like.