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Forget the message or single big idea, it may be rhythm that is the key to a consistent marketing experience.

Marc Shillum is a UX designer for a company called Method and last week he came to the Punch strand of our Festival of Marketing to discuss his theory regarding the effectiveness of considering brand as a fluid rhythmical customer experience.

What is a brand?

Companies invest heavily in a product, from development, testing, manufacture and marketing. The majority of the time this is done on an ad-hoc basis within seperate departments, all happening when they need to happen at a rate dictated by senior directors and investors. Somewhere along this journey a brand is created.

Perhaps it’s best to think of a brand as the sum of all customer experience over time. Therefore isn’t it best to market a product based on the consumer’s natural sense of timing and desire for that product?

As Shillum states:

People used to borrow equity from brands. Now brands borrow equity from people. It’s a reciprocal interface.

Brands, products and services are so entwined that Shillum believes it makes no sense to talk about them separately, let alone build specific companies to serve just one discipline.

Buckminster Fuller once said that one should 'be a generalist not a specialist'. The architect and systems theorist believed that you shouldn’t be so blinkered in the discipline you work in.

Within a company, you should see how all parts of the organisation tessellate and rely on each other for support.

Marketing rhythm

Using the above philosophies and an idea from the slightly more obscure influence of Carnatic and Hindustani music, Shillum has devised a rythmic system.  

In fact let's just call it what it is: a piece of music that, using the two core elements of this musical system: the raga (representing the melody) and tala (rhythm), provides an emotive connection to the listener.

If music can provide this emotive connection then maybe by replacing the notes with brand touchpoints, a marketing strategy can be devised to create a similar emotional connection with a customer.

As Shillum explains: 

Our ability to deliver brand, product or service to market relies on the interconnected frequencies of demand, delivery and production. I wondered if the pattern connecting your product launch, to the gaps between software updates and the frequency of marketing sets a rhythm in the purchaser’s mind which could cause a subsequent, almost Pavlovian desire for the successive product.

Maybe this rhythm could create a deeper engagement, and amplify brand belief.

Apple's rhythmic system 

Apple in particular has learnt how to create a functional rhythm across its organisation that now resonates with the customer. To explain in a clearer way, here’s a handy diagram using Apple's iPhone release schedule as an example.

The top pink line is the product launch points for each model of iPhone. The second line of orange points represents software launches. The third line of blue points represent unique campaigns. The final line of yellow points represent supporting marketing campaigns.

Now if we were to be terribly clever and assign a different note (within a chord structure) to each individual line and ran a track across the notes, this would play a tuneful melody completely in time.

This could go some way in proving how rhythm, not form, message or a single big idea could be the key to creating a consistent experience

It’s also interesting to note the gap just before the release of the iPhone 4S, as this is when Steve Jobs died. Rather than ruin the rhythm with out-of-sync campaigns and product launches post mourning period, Apple modulated the rhythm after the gap, keeping the melody and therefore customer expectancy at an equilibrium.

This is all incredibly speculative at the present, and just because it works for Apple doesn’t necessarily mean it will apply to your brand.

Apple of course has decades of experience and, with the iPhone and previously the iPod, it has a unique and expertly designed product that particularly captured the desires of global consumers at just the right time.

This is hardly an agile marketing strategy and will take a long time to perfect, however the brand as a rhythm theory could well prove effective in your long term marketing plans, and any system that creates empathy with customers will of course result in engagement, purchase and ultimately success for your brand.

I’ll leave you with Shillum’s own 10 rules for marketers to bolster these credentials.

10 rules for marketers

  1. Never lie to persuade someone, always use the truth to inform them.
  2. Inspire people to do something, rather than just conspiring to sell them something.
  3. Describing features is the noise before defeat. Demonstrating differentiation through action is the sound of victory.
  4. A product detail page is where a customer decides to spend money. It should be the most glorious experience within your brand.
  5. Be proud of your supply chain. It is the birthplace of your product.
  6. What you do will show who you are and what you believe. What you say only shows how well you are dealing with it.
  7. Consumer, user and customer are just states. None of us think of ourselves that way.
  8. Be specific about the person you are designing for. Communicating with that person will create empathy for everyone.
  9. Make what is true legible, make what is legible relevant, make what is relevant interesting.
  10. Be free. If you can’t be free be brief. If you can’t be brief be funny. If you can’t be funny, be thought provoking.
Christopher Ratcliff

Published 15 October, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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