Unified Communication: Method or Message?

Updated: September 07, 2010

A Technological Solution to A Psychological Problem

All business relationships start with first contact but in a business environment overwhelmed by email, instant messaging, phone messages, and more, it has become increasingly more difficult to get past the gatekeepers and their infatuation with spam filters and blocking devices. The recent announcement floated by Google aimed at solving email-overload by prioritizing messages by who you know (important) and other (unimportant) extends the wrong-headed notion that business people should only talk to those they already know - apparently everyone else is merely wasting their time. This seems to me to be contrary to basic marketing principles and detrimental to sales growth: if you only communicate with people and companies you know, how are you going to get new clients and better suppliers, never mind expand your knowledge and grow your business.

The great thing about the Web is its serendipitous nature, finding and discovering new and exciting opportunities even if those opportunities are found by accident. Efforts to turn the Web into a cut-to-the-chase environment are foolish and counter-productive. Whether potential clients find your Web presence on purpose or by accident, you better have something interesting to say to them when they arrive, and you better say it in an enlightening, informative, entertaining, and above all memorable manner. Marketing is all about execution, delivering a marketing message so it connects to an audience on an emotional level. It is not about technology.

Business letters have been replaced by email: they are more efficient and cheaper, but the act of writing an articulate communication has often been replaced by a slap-dash semi-literate note that can be easily misinterpreted or easily discarded as unworthy of response. Instant messaging has brought us such woeful communication short-forms as LOL, BTW, and bracketed happy faces. Twitter, the communication fad de jour has spawned a generation of business people that think anything can be said in 140 characters.

Language Has Meaning

Language has meaning, and when marketing experts speak of language we mean more than just the written word. Spoken language is probably the most powerful communication device we have. Nothing has the breadth and depth of nuance and meaning as the spoken word: volume, tone, phrasing, and cadence all come together to deliver more than just the words alone. Bertram Russell once said, "No matter how eloquently a dog barks, he cannot tell you his father was poor but honest." The next time you instant message someone, think about what more could be accomplished by using the telephone, it's the same Unified Communication device but are you using it effectively? Even if you have to leave a message, that message will carry more importance if delivered by voice.

By removing sound from the marketing communication mix you cripple your ability to deliver your message, your personality, and the subtext associated with what you want to accomplish. And speaking of sound, what about sound design? Things like music and sound effects create emotional impact, and enhance memory retention. They are the mnemonics of psychological persuasion and one of the main reasons Web video is becoming the marketing communication vehicle of choice.

In the words of the ubiquitous over-used, hackneyed infomercial, ‘wait there's more:' visual encoding is another form of language we can use in our marketing communication; color palettes, logos, and layout all contribute to the emotional impact, psychological reference, and memory retention of a marketing presentation.

As anyone who has studied these things knows, marketing is a form of psychological persuasion. As much as we would like to think we are completely rational beings, our decision to buy this product instead of that, is invariably based on an emotional response to the brand and how it is presented. Why not use all the tools available to deliver that brand story; why limit yourself to a technology-induced patois.

If you don't believe language shapes how we think, read Guy Deutscher's, (research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester) fascinating article "Does Your Language Shape How You Think?" published in ‘The New York Times' magazine section and available on the Web (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=5).

Hurrying To Oblivion

There is this idea that has been floating around ever since business discovered the Internet that speed is good. It seems Gordon Gekko's "greed is good," has been replace with the equally misguided ‘speed is good.' If you are in the marketing communication business speed is bad. You do not want your audience to race by, or through, your commercial message. You want to slow people down so they have time to absorb what you have to say; this assumes of course, that what you have to say is worth listening to.

All of which leads me and many others to the belief that digital video is the future of marketing communication, but like all technologies, knowing how to press the buttons and turn the knobs doesn't mean you know how to use it to deliver a marketing message. In a world where people older than twelve say things like ‘so fun' and where sadly, national news anchor, Katie Couric, can be quoted as describing a Democratic majority in the House and Senate as "one party rule," it is a wonder anybody understands anything.

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