T-mobile is using the tune of the song F**k You by Cee Lo Green in their latest radio ads. They apparently missed the part of psychology where people recall the words to songs. They sing about how you should switch to T-mobile, which doesn’t require a contract.
Their intent is for you to break up with your current carrier. But communication doesn’t work that way. When we communicate, our audience hears … whatever our audience hears. Anyone who’s ever said to their shmoopie, “would you please pick up your socks?” knows that an innocent question can be heard as an attack on someone’s entire identity1.
Here’s how communication really works: I get my audience to think “f**k you” by listening to a song whose tune makes those lyrics come to mind. Then the lyrics say “T-Mobile” over and over. When my audience hears is “f**k you, T-Mobile.” Over and over. I seriously doubt that was their intent.
When you’re designing ads, public speeches, or even just carrying on a conversation, pay attention to the words you use. Choose words carefully, so they have the greatest chance of unambiguously conveying just the message you want to come across. And if you’re talking to your shmoopie, the only safe words are “yes, dear.” Use them often.
- For those of you not yet in relationships, the question “would you please pick up your socks?” is heard as “You are an ignorant slob who doesn’t deserve to live.” A much better way to say the same thing is to say, “Shmoopie? I’m cleaning the apartment. Where would you like me to put your socks?” ↩