Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Listen Up

I’m always excited when a writer takes something that is commonplace and uses it to illuminate the world in a brand new way. That’s exactly what Garret Keizer has done with The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise.

We spend most of our time trying to ignore noise (think about the construction site next to your office, or that upstairs neighbor with a taste for high-decibel music). Keizer, on the other hand, pays close attention to the noise around us, and draws on it to create a fresh and stimulating commentary on western society.

Among other things, noise is often the natural byproduct of progress – technological, social, and otherwise. The blaring car horns and purring engines that are the audible hallmarks of modern cities are a lot noisier than the charming “clop-clop” of 19th Century horse-drawn carriages. Add in televisions, cell phones, iPods, and all the other sound-emitting technologies that have become ubiquitous over the last decade, and you start to realize just how much noise progress has brought with it.

This may seem like a simple point, but it has important implications, particularly for professional communicators who are trying to rise above the noise that constantly bombards the modern consumer. Although Keizer focuses on audible noise, for me, our modern world is also full of noise in the form of useless information and visual distraction.

Competition for consumers’ attention in our noisy world is fierce. It’s been estimated that consumers are exposed to as many as 5,000 advertisements every day, a great many of which are ignored completely.

Take a walk down Times Square sometime and you’ll see just how futile an enterprise “look-over-here!” advertising can be. There you’ll find thousands of billboards, screens, street vendors, and stores all trying desperately to grab your attention through gimmicks and spectacle. If Keizer is correct, winning consumer attention will only become more difficult as societal progress continues, and the planet’s noise levels rise even higher.

This is where Lovemarks come in. Brands contribute to the noise and, thus, are easily ignored by consumers. Lovemarks stand out from the information clutter by creating meaningful emotional experiences. If you want consumers to pay attention, you’ll have to ask yourself, is my brand just part of the noise?