Laurel or Yanny or Daisy?

By now you’ve most likely picked sides. Like the infamous colored dress meme of a few years ago, now we have the audio equivalent in “Laurel or Yanny?” Which team are you on?

Much like the dress, people are shocked that others don’t hear it their way. Most people apparently can’t hear the clip the other way, and struggle to do so even with audio modifications (check out Psychology Today, “The Psychology of Laurel and Yanny” which includes links to lots of audio examples and several other insights).

We’re extra interested in these social experiments because they serve as reminders of the subjectivity of reality.

If people can interpret visual and audio examples so differently, we have to be extra careful about when and where we demand objectivity from others.

Demanding that someone hear Laurel when all they hear is Yanny is a variation of a round-peg / square-hole type of problem, without the objectivity of the shapes. What do we do when we can’t really apply science?

Now, part of the viral genius of “Laurel or Yanny” is that it frames a declaration as a choice. In one step we align ourselves with a group based on our reaction to hearing a sound. No thinking necessary, there’s no “must make scientific sense” requirement, and we belong to a tribe. It’s brilliant.

Most of marketing is focused on how we choose to be a part of some group. The declaration of loyalty – capturing a customer – is the basis of all economics. Loyalty is the first tradeoff. Loyal to one thing means not-loyal to another thing. It does not require the provable rationality of fitting the peg into the right hole. It also doesn’t require us to tradeoff assets, just opportunity (which is particularly difficult for most people to value).

Declaring loyalty is to lay a fertile groundwork of starting conditions. If you’re creating or selling some good or service, understanding the starting conditions that your potential customer is in can make all the difference in the world. There’s a lot more promise in growing a daisy in a field than trying to grow one in a crack in a sidewalk.

Ignoring starting conditions is a lot like yelling at a daisy to grow while it’s laying sideways on blacktop. It’s a lot like telling someone, “this says Laurel, do you hear it?” and then telling them “you’re wrong” when they say “no.” It seems so obvious, but leave it to a silly dress or audio clip to remind us how profound this insight actually is.

Laurel and Yanny places the subjectivity of starting conditions in plain view. For the marketer, it’s the ultimate reminder of what to do first: listen for a clue into someone else’s subjective experience. Look for the potential inside of that experience and understand how it can or can’t be harnessed.

Good marketers don’t just get on a soap box. They listen for the declarations of others, and then they get to work. We don’t have to change minds so much as we have to adapt our approach to minds that are set.

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