3 Great Communication Lessons

Last weekend I was down on Belmont Shore eating lunch with my family, when, all of a sudden, throngs of people with baby blue and white stripped soccer jerseys started piling into the bar. Argentina was about to play and the fans were amassing.

Not sure if you have caught it yet, but World Cup fever is spreading.

It’s the excitement of March Madness wrapped up in the feel of the Olympics (but on steroids). Since I grew up playing soccer and am addicted to watching, I find the World Cup an amazing study of human behavior with all kinds of lessons to be gleaned as it applies to communications and marketing. Here are my favorite three:

  1. Play to Group Identity: The World Cup combines the power of patriotism with the addiction of being a sports fan. Jonathan Haidt in his book “The Righteous Mind” talks about humans having a “Hive Switch,” in essence where people naturally move from self-identity to group identity.   It is not only a very seductive and powerful shift, but an important thing to remember when communicating with people. Reaching out to people through their group identity is an extremely powerful way to reach your audience.
  2. The Power of Emotions: I have to admit my Spanish is not very good, but when it comes to watching the World Cup, I always watch it on Univision. The announcers on Univision bring passion, excitement and emotion to the game, which just isn’t matched by the ABC/ESPN announcers who focus on the technical play of the game.  Whether it is the announcer reaching a crescendo when calling out “Peligroso, Peligroso, Peligroso!” as Lionel Messi winds up for a shot or the infamous “Goooooooooooooooooool!!!” as the ball hits the back of the net, emotions are contagious. While we like to think we decide things based on information with our thinking brain, it is our emotional brain that moves us, changes us and powers how we respond to one another. Great communication speaks to those motivations and emotions first.
  3. The Addiction of Suspense: One of the reasons I believe soccer is not so popular in the US is because there is so little scoring. The World Cup has games where the scoring is 2-1, 1-0 or heaven forbid the blasphemy of a 0-0 tie. But that is the drama of soccer. Unlike basketball or football where scoring is happening all the time (and in my opinion, the tension and suspense doesn’t build until the last quarter or more often last two minutes). In soccer a 0-0 game is often the one that is the most suspenseful. Take the Mexico – Brazil game (0-0), every shot on goal had fans on the edge of their seat as Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa made save after save. We are naturally drawn to suspense, we want to know what will happen, how things will change. While we always want to be clear in our communications, sometimes holding off on the punchline and building the drama of the outcome is a great way to engage your audience.

So here’s to the soccer, here’s to engaging communications, and here’s to finding an excuse to join a group of strangers on a summer day to cheer with the emotions and drama of the World Cup.
*Photo Courtesy of Oasis Culture*