Growing up, I learned quickly how to determine when my dad wanted my attention. He could add a certain tonal quality to his voice, let's say, to the delivery of a sentence that let me know I needed to focus on what he was saying. He never raised his voice, but I often heard him "yelling" when he used "the tone.” On the other hand, my mom's voice often had a constant level of exasperation that allowed me to lose every word she shared to the white noise that surrounded us.
I thought about "the tone" as I watched President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech last evening. His entire campaign was delivered with a different tone. It was a tone crafted for and deftly delivered to generation--the Millennial Generation. CNN's exit polls last evening noted that 68% of voters 18-24 and 69% of those 25-29 voted for Mr. Obama--a solid victory for the Millennial Generation. Conversely, the same exit polls placed the majority of McCain's supporters over age 45 and a great number over the age of 65.
If you have been unable to see these change markers in your every-day life and work, it should be clear from this election that the Millennial Generation, more than other generations, responds as much to the tone of your voice, as they do to your message. This realization presents an interesting dilemma for marketers, I think. Most of us understand “the tone” concept in our gut, but do not put it into practice in our marketing or advertising campaigns. A good many of us are using a tone in our voice that is heard well by Baby Boomers but is generating white noise to pretty much everyone else.
The November 4, 2008, election should be a wake-up call for marketers. It is time to adjust the tone of our voice if we hope to be heard by a new generation.
David Harkins is a business strategist, speaker, and teacher.
He is the founder and executive consultant at David Harkins Company. In his spare time, he writes hikes, explores, and creates art. Although, not necessarily in that order.
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