Our Client Services Director, James Osborn, shares his thoughts on why brands need a little more sweet talk in their lives and how it helps cut through the wallpaper of communications and build more engaging and profitable connections with consumers.
Somewhere on the northern line on a packed tube, the conductor, in a broad cockney accent announces to a load of blank-faced commuters:
“Hello ladies and gentlemen. The computer system to announce our next destination is broken, so you’re going to have to put up with me whilst I fix it.
Next station is Angel. If you’re getting off here then don’t think about getting on a bus as the roads are in a right old mess [triggering a song] ‘oh they’re digging up the roads, yep, digging up the roads…’
So, if you are thinking of leaving me, forget anything with an engine as pedal power or a horse, probably a Shetland pony, are the only ways you lovely people are going to get anywhere today….”
In those two minutes this man had managed to crack a smile from at least three quarters of the carriage and get half a dozen talking with each other. Through ‘sweet talk’ and saying a few clever and humorous things, he had in that time cut the monotony of a tube journey and managed to persuade me that the tube was an easier option for the future, than an overland expedition. And I have shared this brand experience many times now.
TFL have made a great effort to be more human and in turn persuasive recently, making the brave move to give authority to their train and platform staff to manage their twitter account, through everyday language and flattery. The result has seen the transport network become more of a brand than a vehicle to get hundreds of thousands of Londoners to work every day.
And let’s be honest you can’t create a brand with a robot or algorithm. Yes, you can use data and analytics as inputs to develop your brand, but it’s humans who post the status updates. It’s humans who read them. It’s humans who click like, pin, post and share the content.
Many senior decision makers disregard ‘sweet talk’ as insincere or disconnected to their corporate values, but in an age of technology, where most lives are dictated by their smartphone and virtual social networks, it’s brands who are being more human, saying nice things and having I’m interested in you conversations with their consumers that are consistently scoring well.
Unilever’s Lynx is one example, who through cheeky and persuasive advertising campaigns has managed to achieve a cult status amongst young men as they try to get ahead in the dating game, ensuring a can of Lynx can now be found in 1 in 4 households in the UK.
Calvin Klein is another. They cleverly encouraged people to take selfies of themselves (show off your selfie) in nothing but their Calvin’s and share them through Instagram using the hashtag #MyCalvins. They created a massive movement for the brand with Calvin Klein claiming that #MyCalvins reached a global following of 150 million fans worldwide, generating 5.3 million fan interactions.
And it’s not just brands that benefit from ‘sweet talk’, as a white paper by Deidre McCloskey outlines, there is an importance of it in the health of global economies:
“Economics ignores persuasion in the economy. The economics of common ‘knowledge’ over the past 40 years reduces to costs and benefits but bypasses persuasion, ‘sweet talk’. Sweet talk accounts for a quarter of national income, and so is not mere ‘cheap talk’.”
So there is clearly value in sweet talk helping to cut through the wallpaper of communications and build more engaging and profitable connections with consumers. Many disregard it, but let’s face it in an industry knee deep in data, wrapped up in algorithms; brands need more ‘sweet talk’ in their lives.
Client Services Director