Film director Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up.” He offered this advice to young screenwriters and playwrights back in the 1970s, but it’s a great philosophy today. Why? Because appearances matter more than ever.
Our culture has become accustomed to visuals, from advertising to television to fashion. How things look is hugely important to how we perceive them. Seeing – and being seen – has become a national obsession. A phenomenon that a generation ago would’ve seemed incomprehensible is the “selfie.” But across social media channels, there are pictures of seemingly everybody (and every body). This is no longer just confined to celebrities. The emphasis on, and public expectations about, appearances is taking on greater importance for enterprises that are trying to communicate with their employees and customers.
In my opinion, there are five reasons why appearances matter for enterprises:
Credibility. In every culture and every generation, seeing is believing. This is closely tied to authenticity, which is critical in conveying messages. An enterprise that wants to be perceived as highly credible must deliver messages that are deemed authentic.
Clarity and understanding. A quote that is attributed to Benjamin Franklin is: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” The point for enterprise communications, I think, is that it’s easy for listeners to lose the message. An interactive, visual method of communication is going to come across much clearer and improve the audience’s understanding.
Engagement. Gaining and holding an audience’s attention in the Information Age is a tougher act than following the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” There is so much information and data competing for people’s attention today that it’s difficult to get through. The key for communicators is to engage the audience. People want to be informed, but they also want to be entertained; they don’t want to have their time wasted.
Accelerated judgment. Human beings are wired to make decisions in two ways, through careful analysis as well as intuition and unconscious cognitive processes. It’s a fancy way of saying we all can make snap judgments about the things we see and hear. The fact is, this dual nature is at play everyday in our personal and professional relationships. In the context of consumers and employees, it often means that first impressions outweigh longer consideration. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner for his work in the psychology of decision making and judgment, wrote in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that people have two systems that drive the way we think. One is fast, intuitive and emotional; the other is more deliberate and logical. Both are necessary for our survival. The lesson for communicators is that you have to be prepared to win over your audience on both of those fronts. You need both style and substance to get and hold their attention.
People crave experiences. Aesthetics, which derives from a Greek word meaning “related to perception by the senses,” drive human judgments about everything from the people we select as friends to the goods we buy. It also applies to the messages we consume and choose to focus on. I think aethestics is fundamentally about us being predisposed to select experiences that delight our senses vs. ones that don’t.
Apple is widely admired for the company’s marketing and laser focus on creating special experiences for customers. Every Apple product release is carefully crafted to achieve fanfare and anticipation. It works, because it is focused on design and stories that resonate with people.
You can have the coolest technology in the world, but ultimately it’s appearances that matter to the buyer, to the viewer, to the audience. That’s important for enterprise executives who really want to get people’s attention through video. It can come out in the form of great content, polished delivery and stories that resonate. But most importantly, enterprises should design the experience to engage their audiences.