There’s no shortage of content being created around the latest, polarizing question: “What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel?”
From YouTube videos exploring the science behind hearing to brands co-opting the cultural conversation to podcasters claiming audio is the new be-all-end-all of marketing, there’s one key takeaway for brands: the best marketing is about the creating a one-to-one experience for consumers. In Predatory Thinking, author Dave Trott writes:
Even if you’re using mass media and your communication is in the millions, you’re only talking to one person at a time. To be heard, you have to be in someone’s immediate consciousness. That means in an intimate space. That means one-to-one. Media’s changed and it’ll keep changing. In fact, the only thing that hasn’t changed is people. They’re still the same. All anyone’s aware of is their immediate consciousness. That’s where media has to reach them. Whatever the media is.
The great Yanny or Laurel debate audio clip reached the masses (thanks to a Reddit post that was further amplified by an influencer), and everyone who was aware of it interpreted it differently. It was a one-to-one content experience, even in a group setting.
Another example of this presents in one of the oldest and most well-known campaigns from the 19th century when the U.S. government was recruiting soldiers for both World War I and World War II. J.M. Flagg’s 1917 “I Want You” poster. It was based on the original British Lord Kitchener poster “Who’s Absent? Is It You?” of three years earlier, but both posters personified their respective governments in a way that spoke directly to that audience. It was one-to-one.
In today’s media and marketing landscape where consumers control when, where, and how they interact with brands, the best content is always about the consumer.
It speaks directly to them — even if isn’t personalized in the way technology can personalize content today. The best brands understand their overall marketing strategy must always be “consumer first.”
Some of you might be saying, that’s all great, but Yanny or Laurel wasn’t advertising. Or was it? When I started to dig deeper into the root of the whole story and read that Broadway performer Jay Aubrey Jones told NPR he was saying the word “Laurel” when he recorded the word for Vocabulary.com in 2007.
Maybe the latest viral trend was actually branded content from Vocabulary.com. Or maybe it wasn’t. All I know is that I heard “Yanny.”