Tossing Ping Pong Balls at Rolls-Royce Drivers

I joke that I’m going to start my next presentation by frenetically throwing dozens of ping pong balls at the people in the room. In their confusion, frustration, and failure to catch any balls, I hope they will see what I’ve done: I’ve created a real-time manifestation of an analogy I’m very fond of.

You see, a scattershot approach to communicating a brand, wherein one might feel very smart to be communicating dozens of messages to potential customers, is in fact very counterproductive. If you try and communicate too many things all at once, nothing at all will be caught and retained, and audiences will be left in the dark about why so much information is being hurled at them.

There is a better way.

In 1959, David Ogilvy’s now famous line:

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock. And we’re working on that,”

was the headline in a new campaign for Ogilvy’s very prestigious client.

The Silver Cloud (Rolls Royce’s top-selling automobile during the period) boasted a 155 hp engine, hydraulic brakes, and a Hydramatic transmission; but those ‘features’ didn’t communicate the most important message about the luxury sedan. Drivers were drawn to the silent representation of comfort and luxury that Ogilvy’s ad reminded them of. Rolls Royce had found its single most important ping pong ball.

Another example: imagine if a certain sneaker manufacturer ran around advertising their 6mm heel drop and synthetic overlays, instead of urging you to Just Do It.

Rolls-Royce and David Ogilvy knew 50 years ago what many businesses still struggle with; they knew which ping pong ball to pick up and lob to their audience. Your would-be customers are swamped with family, work, and deciding whether to cheer for or against the team that just knocked their favourites out of the playoffs. You need to get their attention, and hope something about your brand is caught and retained.

The best strategy then, is to choose the most remarkable ping pong ball — just one — that you have at your disposal, and toss it. Toss it over and over again if you must, but stick to the one single story. Expecting a customer to parse an infinite flow of information into a couple of digestible parts, and find one intriguing enough to pay attention to what comes next, is inviting confusion and disinterest. If you chuck a whole bucket of balls at an unsuspecting audience, the chances of being noticed, and having an impact, decrease exponentially.

David Allison | Market Motivation Expert

He’s been called a “force of nature” by CEO’s, and a “born storyteller” by best-selling authors. Famous architects have called him a “@#)%)@ genius”, and senior executives across North America say he’s “the best at what he does, period.”Author, advisor, and researcher David Allison probably knows more about motivating contemporary markets than anyone; he’s been studying how & why people behave the way they do for more than 30 years. He helps organizations and individuals understand their market, survive & thrive through massive change, and motivate more people to act more often.

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