Thursday, August 24, 2006

"We take in electronically mediated auditory and visual information as part of our life process. It is part of our immediate physical surround, and we sit in it, absorbing information constantly. The vital question to be posed in formulating a new theory of communication is: What are the characteristics of the process whereby we organize, store, and act upon the patterned information that is constantly flowing into our brain? Further, given these processes, how do we tune communication to achieve the desired effect for someone creating a message?"

"A listener or viewer brings far more information to the communication event than a communicator can put into his program, commercial, or message. The communicator's problem, then, is not to get stimuli across, or even to package his stimuli so they can be understood and absorbed. Rather, he must deeply understand the kinds of information and experiences stored in his audience, the patterning of this information, and the interactive resonance process whereby stimuli evoke this stored communicating at electronic speed, we no longer direct information into an audience, but try to evoke stored information out of them, in a patterned way." Tony Schwartz

Preparing a talk for brand managers in Helsinki, I revisited the work of audio guru Tony Schwartz. Leading me to then review some materials from the 1970s including a monograph by Trout & Reis on the power of audio. The subject of my talk became...Which is more powerful, the eye or the ear? Jack Trout writes...

"To obtain a more objective viewpoint on the subject, we spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus of the University of Washington, a psychologist, teacher, researcher and author of more than eight books and 100 articles on the human mind and how it works. When we asked her which is superior, the eye or the ear, this was her reply:

'In many ways, the ear is superior to the eye. What I mean by that is that there is evidence from controlled laboratory studies that shows that when you present a list of works to people, and you present it either auditorily, say on a tape recorder, or you present it visually, say on slides, people remember more words if they hear the words than if they see them.'

In the book I wrote with Al Ries, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, we said: "The name is the hook that hangs the brand on the product ladder in the prospect’s mind." Now we know why. Apparently, thinking itself involves the manipulation of sounds deep inside the brain--even when the stimulus is purely visual, as with printed words.

WiIliam Shakespeare was wrong: A rose by any other name would not smell as sweet! Not only do you see what you want to see, you also smell what you want to smell. That is why the single most important decision in the marketing of a perfume is the name." The entire article by Trout (close to a Cliff Notes version of the original monograph) may be found, thanks to Forbes, here

Then I was reminded of Wurman's First Law: "You only learn something relative to something you understand." Learning experts refer to this as "apperception" a concept based on the work of John Locke. Morris Bigge writing in Learning Theories for Teachers defines apperception as "a process where new ideas associate themselves with old ones that already constitute a mind."

My renewed interest in these most basic issues of communication theory came as a result of a lunch in Milwaukee. A lunch with a remarkable person who has the gift of a "remarkable ear". I'll share the story, and the lesson learned, or re-learned, in my next post.