Is ‘Heard’ Immunity Killing Your Brand?


Mark Waite

Co-founder, and longest-standing Cohesive bod | Figures out how to cut through 'heard' immunity | Public Relations specialist | Stories, family, golf | [ he/him ]

There is a crisis happening. Customers are becoming increasingly resistant to traditional marketing approaches. They are no longer listening to sales driven propositions and are looking instead for guidance, knowledge and insight to help them in their decision making.

Sharing your story as far and wide as you can in the hope that it will spread amongst your customers and prospects and gain attention no longer works. In fact, it could have the opposite effect, keeping them [socially] distant. So, whilst you may think you’re having a conversation with the market, the chances are you’re not even being heard.

We live in a world of infinite information, where everyone has the power to publish. The advent of marketing technology has given rise to a ‘martech’ generation, blessed with platforms and tools to do things cheaper, faster and at scale.

"Your customers have built immunity against being sold to. "

Unfortunately, many marketers have embraced this new era of marketing innovation and opportunity by applying old habits and bad practices. Content [satisfied] marketers couldn’t resist the temptation to dust down and replay outdated marketing 101 playbooks. They continue to fixate on pushing sales propositions to saturated databases of faceless job titles, relying on vanity metrics to claim successful engagement. The effect of which is dehumanising marketing.

It’s not hard to see why the drive to keep hitting and hoping has increased. Getting your brand known, understood and valued is harder now than it’s ever been. 

A study by Microsoft back in 2000 claimed that the average human attention span was 12 seconds. In 2015 they did the same study and amazingly found that it had decreased to just 8 seconds, less than the attention span of a Goldfish (9 seconds). Good news if you’re selling to Bubble Eyes, but not so good if you’re trying to engage with a human being.


Attention Deficit Disorder

To counter this information fuelled Attention Deficit Disorder epidemic, and break through the noise of nothingness you need to consider attraction-based marketing that drives brand engagement, is valuable to the audience and establishes trust.  

Instead of adding to the meaningless noise, think like a content [valuable information] marketer and create a more customer centric and human centred engagement approach. 

What does that mean in practice? It means taking a different route from the rest. It means putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and understanding what they’re looking for rather than what you want to sell to them. Less is more when it comes to taking a human centred approach. You can read more about that here. How to create a purposeful content strategy that drives engagement


The Spartacus Syndrome

Most brands tend to communicate from a position of ‘what’ they do. The challenge here is that there are many companies that do what you do, and many, many more that will claim they do. We call this the ‘Spartacus Syndrome’. This often results in a battle of the ‘what and how’ as competitors make claims and counterclaims.

Symptoms are often an acute feeling of paranoia, acting recklessly, impaired vision, a tendency to mislead the public and claim untruths. This is also known as the ‘Cummings Effect’.


Flatten the Hype Curve

If you market your company based on what you do, you’ll soon find yourself caught up in a war of words, a communications arms race that will inevitably lead to exaggeration and hype. The only way to flatten the hype curve is to reduce your dependency on what you do and how you do it. Instead, focus on why you do what you do, and why it matters.

Communicating your ‘why’ will not only safeguard you against ‘Spartacus Syndrome’, it will allow you to engage with your audience in a deeper, more meaningful way. It will attract the people who believe in what you believe. Those people that see the world as you see it. While others focus on convincing minds with their ‘what’ and ‘how’, your ‘why’ will win hearts and emotions. 

If you want help finding your Why, take a look at How do I find my ‘why’?

"We make big decisions with our hearts and then justify them with our heads"

Kevin Roberts, formerly CEO Saatchi&Saatchi

Increase your ‘RR’ rate (Relevancy + Relatability)

Communicating your ‘why’ will attract the people that want to do business with you based upon a much deeper, more meaningful relationship. You’ll be more relatable, a company of people with values and ideas. It will differentiate you from competitors focused more on transactional acquaintances.

You will matter more to your audience and in doing so be more relevant. And the greater your relevancy and relatability – your ‘RR’ –  the more your brand story will spread, from one person to another to create genuine influence.

When it comes to the RR number, you’re aiming for it to be above 1. Create a story that people feel compelled to personally share, and it will get seen by more people. We listen to our friends more closely than we do to faceless brands.


RoI on your ‘Why’

So what’s the RoI on your ‘why’ I hear you shout? Ahhh, that great marketing benchmark. The holy grail of successful campaign measurement.

Here’s the thing. ‘Return on Investment’ is predominately used to measure the success of activation marketing. Tactical lead generation campaigns where there’s a cost associated with creating a campaign and a return based on the value of the opportunities or deals generated.

"Your ‘why’ is much more about attraction marketing. It’s a strategic play to build long term brand equity and trust."

Communicate your authenticity and purpose. It’s what earns your brand the right to make activation propositions. This is measured as a ‘Return on Influence’.

You influence by offering guidance, knowledge and insight over self promotion. Authentic, value driven content that connects with people on an emotional level is what will get you heard in a sea of noise. Campaigns that speak to head and heart resonate more deeply than shouting about your features and benefits, or your latest industry win. 


Purpose is the answer

Finding your purpose, your ‘why’, takes time, commitment and effort. It cannot be dreamt up. It has to be authentically yours. A strong purpose becomes an antidote to BS and fakery. It is a cure for the ‘Spartacus Syndrome’ and an effective treatment against ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’.

It builds antibodies of attraction that help grab attention from the people who matter most to you, the people who see things as you see them, the people you want to do business with and who want to do business with you. 

We might have heard this before, but it still holds true.  

"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it"

Simon Sinek


The Science of Stories on Purpose

The combination of purpose, content and great storytelling is a powerful marketing remedy. In fact, purposeful storytelling has been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on the way we think and behave.

In their book ‘The Laws of Brand Storytelling’, Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio explore the impact of stories when used in a business context:

Stories are more memorable.

Research by Stanford Graduate School of Business found that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and figures

Our neural activity increases 5x when listening to a story.

Stories can spark our emotions and when you listen to a story that interests you it actually lights up your brain activity

Stories increase our likelihood to purchase

Stories have the power to sell. Research by Headstream found that if people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy in future, while 15% will buy immediately

These examples clearly demonstrate the power of purpose in brand storytelling to develop a more meaningful and emotional relationship with your audience, leading to positive behaviour.

So, if you think your brand is suffering from ‘Heard Immunity’ here are a few more helpful articles that will show you how to find your ‘why’, identify your tribe, develop an agile content strategy and create valuable content that connects.



Share this
Google plus

What do you think?

Like what you're reading?

Well, there’s more.

If you’d like to learn from others, get inspired by stories of purpose in action and stay abreast of meaningful news and views, then put your name down for The Clec*. We aim to help you to help yourself. Informed, expert, sometimes a little off-beat, we publish twice a month - every second Friday.

*Clec (n) - in Welsh, a teller of tales, a gossip, a chatterbox

Talk to us about your story

Call +44 1291 626200