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“I Assume You Cannot Hear What I’m Saying”

On Saturday mornings during the Christmas season, you can usually find me in my office streaming my favorite Christmas classics and whittling away at the last of my weekly to-do list. One of the items on my list involves doing some research on my clients’ competitors: banks, misguided credit unions, payday lenders, fintech, and such. As Bing Crosby’s “Do You Hear What I Hear” blared from my speakers during a recent review session, I came across an ad that left me confused about what a particular financial institution (which shall remain nameless) was trying to communicate.

I was looking at a stock photo and a vague statement. The phrase “Be worry free” was plastered over a stretched-out image. Be worry free? About what? Finances, I’m sure. But what exactly was this FI trying to say? Were they offering free checking? A Skip-A-Pay program? Unfortunately, the button on the image didn’t work, so I wasn’t able to track down any additional details. Now, before you scoff and assume that your creative is ten times better—and it very well may be—have you ever stopped to consider whether your message is clear?

This question about clarity brings me back to the song “Do You Hear What I Hear” and reminds me of what Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri said about it in her recent review of the Top 100 Most Popular Christmas Songs. “A better name for this song would be ‘I Assume You Cannot Hear Anything I Am Saying and so I Am Going to Repeat All the Words Twice.’” Petri goes on to say, “The problem with this song is the problem that arises any time you are forced to repeat something you said because someone didn’t hear it properly: namely, that you didn’t phrase the thing very well in the first place and having to say it again just makes you more painfully aware of how awkward your wording was.” All too often, her musical commentary could just as easily apply to the marketing efforts of many financial institutions.

So, back to my original question: Is your message clear? Do your members hear what you hear (or say)? Are you using lingo that’s clear-as-day to you but clear-as-mud to your audience? Are you pushing product instead of solving a problem or providing a solution? Did you spend time writing a meticulously detailed novel instead of crafting a clear, concise bumper sticker statement that draws people in? Before you send out your next marketing piece, ask yourself these questions and make sure your messaging not only says something your members want to hear but states it clearly. Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure your call-to-action button works properly too.

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