Between hearing and listening
BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2020 - 12:00am

A man went to the doctor for his annual physical examination. After the doctor had examined the man, he asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss today?”

The man thought a moment and said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. My wife has gotten so hard of hearing that often she doesn’t hear me, and she refuses to get her hearing checked. What can I do about this?”

The doctor thought for a while and then said, “I have an idea for you. Next time you see her, and she is not looking, say something to her and see if she hears you. Then see how close you have to get before she hears you. Let me know what happens.”

So the man went home and went into the living room. He saw his wife with her back to him, and she was at the kitchen counter, getting dinner ready, and he stood at the far end of the living room. He asked in a reasonable voice, “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” As usual, she did not respond.

So he took a few steps closer and said again, “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” Again, she did not hear him, and there was no response.

So he took a few steps closer and asked a third time, “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” Again there is no response. So he gets right up behind her and asks again, “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?”

At this point, she turns around and faces him and says, “For the FOURTH time, beef stew!!!!”

I get to watch some video clips with so much time for me while locked down inside my home. And there seems to be a recurring pattern when it comes to videos with high viewership. I have gotten used to ads that appear before the feature and those that you can “skip ad” after a few seconds. That can be irritating in itself, especially if you are in a hurry to watch the feature, but I understand that companies have to do marketing and products have to be advertised, it’s all part of doing business. What infuriates me is right in the middle of the featured video an ad would pop up to surprise me and interrupt my watching. One ad brings in another one, and it would pop up not-stop until I click on the “X” part. I gave this some thought and decided that whatever product that is featured in that “surprise ad” popping right in the middle of the video, I will NEVER buy. And here is the line of thinking. This product comes from a company that is so rude and arrogant it dares interrupt me in the middle of the program, which is a practice that may be legal but certainly does not seem to be ethical. The music, voices, and pitch all went into deft ears, but the negative impression of irritation towards the product and the company behind remains. I may be hearing, but I certainly am not listening.

Marketing guru Seth Godin says: “Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize a sound. Listening happens when we put in the effort to understand what it means. It not only requires focus, but it also requires a commitment to encountering the experience, intent, and emotion behind the words.” Godin is right, and the emotions that are stirred up by this “tactic” are far from positive.

What is the product saying? What does the company that manufactures the product saying? It is saying: “I don’t care about you, but what I care is to push you my product and hardball you to buy,” which does not happen.

Successful brands of the future care about people, not branding. They do not inconspicuously insert their video ads and allow it to pop up interrupting you and irritating you because they should not sneak in to steal your attention. And technology has enabled them to successfully irritate consumers on a pandemic scale.

I wish this practice would stop and make sure that the consumers are listening and not just hearing the irritating noise. Successful brands are not designed and decided by ad agencies or marketing people but by consumers. Yes, this is the future for brands.

Listening is better than just hearing. This reminds me of a line that says: “When a woman says, “what?” It may not necessarily mean she has not heard. She may just be giving you another chance.” And that makes all the difference.

(Attend the live webinar this Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Francis Kong will host, and Pastor Chad Williams of Union Church of Manila will speak on “Finding Strength In The Small Things”).

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