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Quick to Listen Slow to Speak

by Emily Taylor
6 10 2010

I recently read an intriguing article about how State Farm was involving digital efforts in their sponsorship acquisition and activation.  There was a quote referenced in the article which I absolutely loved: “It turns out the future of branding doesn’t belong to the loudest voice, but to the most perceptive ear,” James P. Othmer, author of Adland, The Futurist.  I think this is so interesting and so true.  So many times there are a couple of mistakes that cripple the marketing efforts of a brand, and even the marketing plans of a property. 

  1. Speaking to quickly
  2. Listening to the wrong voices / letting the message be influenced by the wrong thing

When a brand speaks too quickly, they cripple their ability to understand and respond to the interests, needs or trends of their consumer.  Let’s take it back to the parallel of a partnership being compared to a relationship between two people.  In a healthy marriage, one of the worse things you can do is speak too quickly or without discernment.  I’m a talker, and I have to constantly remind myself to consider what comes out of my mouth and when!  I find that sometimes, if I say the same thing, but at a different time of day or better moment, I can get an entirely different reaction than if I just say what comes to mind when it comes to mind.  In sponsorship marketing, timing is important, that’s why countless hours are spent determining the proper action steps for memorable activation – or at least there should be.  It’s also wise to listen more often than you speak in order to fully consider the impact you might have.  Haven’t we all had those moments that we react to something, and then on our car ride home we think of about 15 better things we could have said?!  Marketing can be like that – it’s better to consider the 15 better things you can attract your target market, vs. jumping the gun as a result of poor planning, a crisis or celebratory event, etc. 

Another inappropriate launching pad for your ideas is the voice of anyone else but your target market.  While it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of what your competition is doing, they shouldn’t be the primary voice or influence of your efforts.  Are there moments when campaigns require a brand to respond?  Absolutely.  When Verizon came out with their catchy commercials where the maps were popping up over people’s heads and if the cell phone was using the Verizon network, the coverage was so good you couldn’t see through the map, but I it was an AT&T phone, you could – because the coverage was so bad; AT&T would have been crazy if not to respond.  I personally enjoy my iphone, which is clearly AT&T, and every time I dropped a call I thought, “dang, that commercial really is right – there’s just not enough coverage!”  If AT&T had not responded with their clever comebacks it would probably have damaged them.  In that case, responding to your competition was a good thing – but when brands simply try to drown one another out with the louder marketing voice instead of listening to the thoughts and needs of their consumer – it’s wasted breath.  I heard one major automobile manufacturer during a sponsorship conference reporting on what they understand the top 3-5 interests of their primary target market to be.  He went on to say that they manage their marketing decisions based on aligning with and speaking to those interests; and that marketing works best – much better than trying to outdo whatever their competition is doing whose target market might even be a little bit different. 

Ineffective communication cripples growth.  I have a sweet Weimaraner dog with huge droopy ears, and in my opinion is the smartest dog ever.  You can tell when she’s listening, and I can speak in a way that will get her attention – but that doesn’t always mean she understands or the response I want is elicited!  But the second I say “you wanna go for a walk?”  She is running circles around our dining room table and running to “her” drawer where she knows her leash is.  When you speak loudly your target audience might hear you, but if you want to elicit a positive response, you have to consider whether they identify with what you are saying – and that you can control!
So the moral is, listen carefully and respond wisely; or – be quick to listen and slow to speak!


Categories:   General | Marketing
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10/8/2010 12:23:40 PM #

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