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What does “resonate” even mean?

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I may do a few more of this type of post, but the gist of what I’ll attempting below is thus: to make better sense of words we use in marketing but may not fully understand.

Today’s suspect: resonate.

I’ve used this word in roughly 20 different posts within the SlopeFillers archives, but a good example of how I’ve perceived it in the past was from a post about this Twitter bio:

Referring to both my personal affection for honest but also Al Reis’ Law of the Ladder, I stated that:

“So, when I saw this bio on Twitter, it both resonated with me as a skier but also as a marketer.”

If I had to describe in non-marketing words what I meant by this, I’d say that the thing I was reading now reminded me of something else I had seen before.

But not just any old thing, it reminded me of something that I had agreed with or tried to remember or apply to my work or life.

A Few Definitions
As I searched around for generic descriptions of the word, I was surprised by how different they were between sources. But a few that seemed to match the usage in marketing were:

strike a chord

to produce a positive feeling, emotional response, or opinion

to relate harmoniously

And we want to do this because, if we can strike that chord and be known as the ones who’ve done it, we might earn and extra degree of attention and move our brand up a notch in this person’s brain.

If we’re really lucky, they might even be so inspired they act right then.

Hidden Piece
I think there’s an interesting aspect of our efforts to create messages that resonate in the fact that one piece of the equation appears to be hidden.

In both these definitions and in my own case of “something I had agreed with before,” there’s some hidden opinion or ideal or belief or part of someone’s identify that makes a message stand out. Someone without their same life experience could hear or read the same thing and have no reaction.

Which is interesting.

Luck vs Skill
Perhaps a way to wrap up this experimental post is to point out that getting something to resonate to someone is a combination of luck, skill, and brute force.

Skill because you can use data and instinct to predict what might “produce a positive feeling” in our audience. Luck because even with perfect data analysis, we’ll never know exactly who is who. And brute force because the easiest way to make sure that message reaches the people with whom it will “relate harmoniously” is to send it to anyone and everyone it might.


Will have to think about this one a bit more, but that’s an interesting start.

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