September 03, 2014
Your mother was wrong

Why Interrupting people and breaking the rules is the right way to communicate

By Scott Cullather | 10/10/2013

From the time we were born we were taught that it is impolite to interrupt people. However, when it comes to designing and creating effective brand communications and experiences, we need to challenge what our mothers taught us. Brands, companies and trade organizations spend an enormous amount of time and resources trying to effectively communicate to their employees, customers, consumers, partners, the press and other critical target audiences. They invest in marketing communications and brand experiences because they need something to change as a result. No matter the industry segment or the type of communication or marketing initiative, organizations turn to agencies to help them change the way people think, feel, behave or perform.

This is easier said than done. Change is hard. In today’s world you need to operate under the premise that no one is listening and nobody cares. People are busy, distracted, overstimulated, numbed and somewhat exhausted by the sheer amount of brands and messages that compete for their attention every day. Not only that, but they have “seen it all before.” Increasingly and with no sign of letting up, people need to be interrupted. As agency partners to our clients, we need to approach every initiative under the assumption that the audience is looking at something else...and then decide how best to seize their attention. In other words: the first step to effectively communicating a brand or product message is to INTERRUPT.

OK, you have them. You’ve interrupted people and moved them from indifference to intrigue or interest. Now what? Start BREAKING THE RULES. Our mothers are wringing their hands in despair as we undo all those years of careful instruction. But while learning to follow rules and respect authority helped us get through our formative years without a trip to “juvie,” breaking the rules is an essential ingredient in the business of brand communication. It’s critical to take creative risks that are grounded in strategy, on brand and on message, and are yet disruptive and designed to cut through the clutter, strike a chord, and create a lasting memory.

If you want to create change you have to be willing to challenge the way things have been done. As you develop specific tactics this challenger mindset will help you challenge the status quo, norms, beliefs, habits, competitive “noise” and even the market, breaking the rules at every opportunity you have. It can feel uncomfortable at first, but it will make your work stronger and create the kind of positive change you desire.

Last, but probably most important, it is critical to build a MEASUREMENT platform to track your success. Whether you are communicating internally to employees or to the public through a major campaign, you owe it to yourself and your stakeholders to measure the outcomes of your efforts. Metrics not only tell you and your constituents whether the initiative was successful, but they provide you with key insights on effectiveness that fuel continuous improvement in the future.

In today’s world the biggest risk is playing it safe. Develop the right strategy then challenge yourself and your colleagues to INTERRUPT, BREAK THE RULES and MEASURE the outcomes. Not only will you enjoy the process, you will be rewarded with great success, and maybe even make mother proud.

Cullather is the global managing partner of inVNT, a global brand communications agency that collaborates with brands, trade associations and other organizations. inVNT’s offices are in New York, London, Washington, San Francisco and Detroit. Details: www.invnt.com.


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