Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Jr2 Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net

The Power of Sound

Think Motel 6. For nine out of ten people, Tom Bodett will pop into their brains, or “We’ll leave the light on for you,” or maybe even “lowest price of any national chain.” Most people get a homey, folksy feel. They can usually hear the Motel 6 music bed playing in their heads.

Now think Marriot. What comes to mind? Maybe the logo, maybe. What else? Nine out of ten people—when I teach this in seminars—can’t think of anything. I usually offer a $20 bill if someone can tell me their slogan. I’ve never given the money away. And yet Marriot spends millions more than Motel 6 every year on branding and advertising. So why has Motel 6 burned itself into our brains and Marriott is still languishing in the “Yeah, I know the Marriott name but that’s about it” arena?

Movie fans, trivia question: What did Rhett say to Scarlett at the end of Gone with the Wind? Not too tough to answer that one, but where were they standing when Rhett uttered the line? What color dress was Scarlett wearing? Harder to come up with these answers, even for those who have seen the movie multiple times. (Answers at the bottom of the page.)

Here’s the marketing principal: Sound is king. We remember much more of what we hear than what we see. A part of our brain is called the reticular activator, which filters out what we see. It’s God’s way of protecting our minds. If we took in all the visual stimuli around us at the same time, we’d overload. Some scientists think this is what happens when someone takes LSD. You’re truckin’, baby, ’cause your mind is being hammered equally with every image within eyesight.

Ever wonder why babies look around like they’re hanging out in a different universe? Scientists theorize they need to be learning and soaking up things like a sponge, so their reticular activator isn’t fully developed when they’re born.

Have you bought a new car, then suddenly seen your model everywhere you drive? “Hey, that’s my car!” Were those cars out there previously? Of course. But the R.A. filtered out the car, or put another way, prioritized its importance.

But sound?

Nothing filters out what we hear.

In fact, if we had time, studies show each one of us could—on average—sing snippets of over two thousand songs or jingles. Did you try to memorize those songs? A few maybe. But probably 90 percent of those melodies wormed their way into your brain without any effort from you.

Songs get “stuck in our heads.” Images? Not so much.

Am I saying sound is more powerful than sight? Yep.

Let me prove it to you. Go to YouTube or grab a DVD of an intense thriller and find a scene that gets your heart pumping. Watch it without the sound. Then watch it with the sound on, but with your eyes closed. Which affected you more?

Interesting to note the area of our brains that records sound is larger than the area that records sight.

Interesting that police will say they rely more on what witnesses hear at a crime scene than what they see.

How does this apply to writers? If you have a Web site or blog, do you have an audio stinger that states your slogan/tag line/branding line with an appropriate music bed underneath?

If I were Brandilyn Collins, every time someone opened my site you’d hear a three second music bed with a deep male voice saying, “Brandilyn Collins, Seatbelt (dramatic pause) Suspense.”

Short, sweet, don’t make it play every time you open a page—then you become a pain in the backside—but by making it play each time the site (or blog) is visited, Brandilyn’s tag line is burned into readers brains in a way that physiologically they can’t help but memorize.

And when they see her name on a book, that visceral sound memory will pop up in her reader’s minds.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

Nope, Rhett and Scarlett weren’t standing at the bottom of the stairs—or at the top—and her dress wasn’t red or green. They were in the front doorway, and her dress was black. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZ7z6hpO57c.