Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It seems impressively small for a band who has had such a gargantuan effect on the zeitgeist. It turns out that if every recorded Beatles song was played back-to-back on Portland radio, the fab four marathon would last a slight 10 hours - 20 minutes - 43 seconds.
But of the entire mop-top canon, a scant 124 seconds has built a life of its own. The song Yesterday was released in 1965. Exceeding 3000, it holds a Guinness record for being recorded by more artists than any other song in history.
More monumental, however, is that this Beatles record was selected by musical experts and radio listeners alike as the #1 song of the entire 20th century.
Maine's small business owners who depend on Portland radio to advertise and market their goods and services can learn a profitable lesson from Yesterday: how to make their commercials stand out from everything else on the air.
For commercials or pop-songs to be noticed on the radio, the content must use language, sound, and structure in a way the listener does not anticipate. This principle of expectancy violation activates our most primitive survival instincts.
We Don't Have Ear Lids
You may have noticed that humans do not have ear lids. As a result, our ears cannot escape the thousands, if not millions, of sounds we are exposed to every minute of the day. For our own survival, our brains have learned to give primary attention to unexpected sounds that might threaten our existence. It's why we will leap out of bed if we hear a stranger's soft footsteps while we are sleeping, but will snore right through a cacophonous alarm clock.
This selective hearing evolved from our cavemen ancestors whose life depended on the ability to detect a stalking saber-tooth tiger from among the nighttime congregation of sounds from insects, rustling leaves, crackling fires, babbling brooks, and whispering winds.
Yesterday violates our expectancy right from the start. The first note Paul McCartney sings is out of key. To be technical, the first beat of the song comprises an F7 chord. But, when Mr. McCartney sings the first syllable of the lyric "Yesterday", he sings a G-note, a note that is not contained in the F7 chord. The result is a dissonant note on a strong beat, which causes tension in the listener. This is the musical equivalent of a saber-tooth tiger approaching. We are hearing something unexpected and uncomfortable so we pay attention. We can't help ourselves. That's how we are hard-wired to survive.
By the second, note, Mr. McCartney relieves the tension by gliding the second syllable of the word "yesterday" on to a very harmonious F note. Musicians call this construction of singing a dissonant note on a major beat and then leaning into a harmonious note an appoggiatura. This is a musical ornamentation that takes the listener by surprise thus demanding attention. Appoggiaturas have contriubted to the success of Adele's song Someone Like You and Kermit the Frog's song Rainbow Connection.
Still Another Surprise To Come
But wait, were not out of the woods yet. Yesterday assaults the listener's expectancy again after only 7 measures of the song have elapsed. It turns out the verses of most pop songs have 8 measures. So, when a new verse of Yesterday starts after just 7, we get the sense something is not right in the musical jungle. So, we move, again, to a heightened sense of attention. We take notice.
Like a well-crafted pop song, the first job of a commercial on Portland radio is to wrestle the listener's attention away from the 11,000,000 other bits of stimuli she is being exposed to every second. To do this requires the same type of expectancy violation experienced while listening to Yesterday. Here's an example.
Many radio commercials sound a lot like, well, radio commercials. They begin with a trite question or hackneyed temporal reference. For instance: "In the market for a new hair dryer...?" or "Spring's just around the corner...". This is usually followed by a litany of cliches such as "fast and friendly service," "we won't be undersold," "acres and acres of free parking," and "free estimates." We've heard it all before, so we turn our attention elsewhere."
This is not the case with a recent Time-Warner Cable commercial. For first three seconds of life, the commercial treats us to the annoying but oddly riveting sound of a highball duck call. It's a sound one does not expect to be emanating from their favorite radio station. Our attention is arrested. We listen. Job number one of any radio commercial has been accomplished.
Another way to violate expectancy is to insert language that seems out of place in a radio commercial. An example of this was used by Day's Jewelers, a New England based retailer. The chain places its store near shopping malls but not in them. The tag line of the commercial, written by Roy Williams The Wizard of Ads, was "Day's Jewelers. inconveniently located at 415 Philbrook Avenue in South Portland, Maine. Day's a little hard to find, but definitely worth the trouble." [To see the whole script, click here].
In the Day's commercials, listeners expected to hear the cliché, "conveniently located" but instead, the phrase "inconveniently located" violates our expectancy. The result: the commercial commanded so much attention that, every time the commercial would play, we would get calls at the radio station saying there was a mistake in the Day's commercial. It was no mistake; it was a surprising use of language. It got noticed.
A violation of language expectancy also occurs in a commercial from Australia for H&R Block created by Tim Chenery & David Roberts for Us Sydney.
In a typical tax preparation commercial we would probably expect to hear phrases like "our trained professionals," "fast returns", or "fast and friendly service." But instead, the listener's expectation is violated with phrases such as "the cornucopia of lamb shanks can be splattered into a warm bath of mustached rigor mortis" and "check the instrumental mother's sprinkled seven times under a carrot handshake." This riot of nonsensical language is enough to breach our brain's filters and get noticed. Hear the commercial below.
It is not easy to do the unexpected. As humans, we tend to do what is safe. As marketers, however, imitation may be a sincere form of flattery, but it will not compel and engage consumers. Caroline Kennedy once said, "I think my mother... made it clear that you have to live life by your own terms and you have to not worry about what other people think and you have to have the courage to ."
If your Maine small business depends on Portland radio to create and maintain customers, then you must heed the lessons learned from The Beatles and Mrs. Kennedy. Be brave, be different, do the unexpected. You will compel people to listen to your commercials. And that's the first step towards making a sale
More Great Advice For Maine Small Business Owners
- Improve Employee Recruitment By Branding Your Maine Small Business
- Portland Radio: The Best Way For Maine Small Business To Reach Moms
- How Not To Waste Your Money Advertising On Portland Radio
- Who Are The Best DJs on Portland Radio and Why It's Good For Business
- Star Power Works For Maine Businesses Advertising On Portland Radio
- Is Anyone Still Listening To Portland Radio?