Communication Without Communicating- Part 2
By: Ishola Ayodele
A great thinker of antiquity George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”
The American beer giant Budweiser produced a new beer for women called Bud Light Beer and in other to make it appealing to women they decided to position the beer as a brand for women who are bold and daring with a slogan which says “Up for Whatever”.
They even went as far as backing up the product with a twitter marketing campaign entitled #UpforWhatever
Budweiser thought that the slogan was a great communication but unknown to them they were communicating truly but not exactly what they wanted their audience to hear.
As a matter of fact, they were insulting women and helping to promote sexual harassment. What the hell were they thinking giving a beer that type of slogan?
Take a look at this slogan again and ask yourself what does it mean for a woman to drink a beer and be up for whatever comes her way?
Many American women believed Bud Light beer’s slogan suggests that the beer is for a ‘certain type’ of woman who is carefree, gets drunk and doesn’t care what happens to her.
There was massive public criticism of the company from activists, feminists and even men. The company was accused of creating a product that makes women vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse.
The public outcry led to a call for boycott of the product especially on the social media. And this had adverse effect on the Bud Light brand.
The theory of Symbolic Interactionism states that, “We do not react to what people say or do but to the interpretation of what they say or do.”
This is why in my book, PR Case Studies; Mastering The Trade Vol 2, I argued fervently with research and copious case studies from Nigeria & Abroad that “It is not what you say but what the people hear that provokes actions or reactions towards your brand, corporation or policies. ”
Budweiser thought Up For Whatever means bold and ready to face changes of life but the audience interpreted it as saying the beer gets women drunk and vulnerable to sexual harassment.
The truth is that the audience’s interpretation is what they heard and that was what their thinking faculty responded to.
Therefore, the new challenge for leaders, Brands and corporations is to communicate in a way that their audience hears what they want them to hear and respond in the desired way in order to yield the desired results.
This type of communication doesn’t happen by accident, it is planted. Yes, planted like a seed because this 21st century audience are different.
They live in an age of information overload where there is more information than the time to process them and where there attention span becomes shorter by the day, “you now have less than 10 seconds to grab people’s attention” according to a study conducted in Canada by Microsoft Corp.
Consequently, your communication must be laser sharp in order to:
- Penetrate the noise from other information your audience are being bombarded with,
- Grab the audience attention,
- Be understood and
- Interpreted the way you wanted to get the desired response from them.
This level of strategic communication cannot be achieved by thinking out of the box; You must get out of the box completely.
As professionals we must understand that, Communication does not begin with Talking but Listening.
Ishola Is a Specialist in Message Engineering and a PR professional and can be reached at [email protected]