I am currently reading a classic book titled Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
When I finish it I will summarise my learnings in a future post, but I just had to share this funny excerpt that describes what happens when communication breaks down.
According to Professor Cohen, in case after case, patients, nurses, pharmacists, and other physicians do not question the prescription.
Take, for example, the strange case of the “rectal earache” reported by Cohen and Davis.
A physician ordered ear drops to be administered to the right ear of a patient suffering pain and infection there.
But instead of writing out completely the location “right ear” on the prescription, the doctor abbreviated it so that the instructions read “place in R ear.”
Upon receiving the prescription, the duty nurse promptly put the required number of ear drops into the patient’s anus.
Obviously, rectal treatment of an earache makes no sense. Yet neither the patient nor the nurse questioned it.
The important lesson of this story is that in many situations where a legitimate authority has spoken, what would otherwise make sense is irrelevant
What does it mean for marketers?
The excerpt above is a hilarious example of one of my favourite quotes from George Bernard Shaw in action:
The problem with communication…is the illusion that it has been accomplished
In research circles this is often referred to as branded message take-out, which I think is one of the most critical metrics for any piece of communication.
So basically, if your communications aren’t scoring high in this metric, your customers end up suffering rectal earache.
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