Resonance:

Mechanical resonance is the tendency of a mechanical system to absorb more energy when the frequency of its oscillations matches the system’s natural frequency of vibration (its resonance frequency or resonant frequency) than it does at other frequencies. It may cause violent swaying motions and even catastrophic failure in improperly constructed structures including bridges, buildings, and airplanes a phenomenon known as resonance disaster. – Wikipedia

Resonance, demonstrated at the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington State, 1940:

Resonance disaster can occur in more places than the physics of bridges. Resonance disaster – and success – can occur in media.

Take an example like United Breaks Guitars. This video would have flopped miserably if the airline industry’s service was superb. No one would have spread the message. But the video and campaign resonated with people, deeply. People who had bad experiences with airlines and luggage spread the video like wildfire, and the mainstream media (many of whom are frequent travelers themselves) boosted the video even more.

Media resonance is when a message matches the pre-existing message within the audience and as a result the power of the message’s absorption is amplified, in the same way that an opera singer’s voice can match the resonant frequency of a crystal glass and shatter it, or the wind-induced vibrations can collapse a bridge.

Resonance is at the very heart of what messages are sticky, what messages spread, what messages will go “viral”. A message that resonates with its audience will be amplified by the conditions within the audience and rapidly escalate beyond anything the message creator anticipated.

How do you determine resonance as a marketer? Lots and lots of research and human life experience. Research using tools like Google Trends, Google Insight for Search, Google Adwords Keyword Tool, and any other mood or sentiment indication tool to determine not only what’s on people’s minds, but how they say it. Deeply examine your own life experiences for things that piss you off, things that delight you, things that resonate with you, and extrapolate your own experiences to larger human characteristics. Look at messages on Twitter that are retweeted and become trending topics for what resonates about them. Watch the long-standing hit movies that retain their hit quality decades after release. Immerse yourself in what resonates with people and you’ll have a very good idea over time of what messages will resonate and what messages will not.

Here’s the devil of resonance: most of what you market, your products, your services, the things you have for sale, probably will not resonate with people. Sorry. At best, a majority of people will be somewhat interested in what you have. Your job is not to make them care, because you can’t, any more than you can force a bridge’s resonant frequency to change (you can’t unless you tear it down and rebuild it). The best you can do is figure out what latent resonance is already in people and rethink how you present your products and services to more closely match an existing resonance, or build a new product on top of existing ones that does match the resonance of your audience.

Good luck finding your resonance.


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