Do Sensory Channels Matter?

In writing about audio books Seth Godin observes that people who listen to his audio books are 10 times more likely to contact him than book readers. His hypothesis for this difference is:

“Part of it is the entertaining nature of the presentation, I think (I probably talk better than I write) and part of it is the nature of the experience–it’s going into a different part of your brain. (Bolding mine)

As we know different sensory channels not only process information in different ways – but have strikingly different parts of the brain associated with their primary analysis and different connections for emotional, logical and social associations. Increasingly it will be important for marketing and media companies to understand how people perceive process and engage around different mediums.

This connection between sensory channels and media relates to peoples attention preferences, learning styles and ultimately their psycho-demographic profile. As McLuhan observed a “the message of any medium is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. It is here that we will see the most profound effects – because the ability to re-purpose content across multiple media allows organizations to both serve narrower segments but also engage segments that may have been overlooked or not fully engaged – because the format didn’t match their psychological style. 

It’s possible the rise of internet video for purposes such as recruiting may be the latest example of a medium, targeting a new sensory channel, changing the pattern of human affairs – by connecting with individuals that are more visual than the readers that traditional HR ads target. 

Getting back to Seth’s observation – if audio book listeners are more likely to contact authors, do they also engage in other social behaviors more as well – like talking up the book to their friends more? If they do can this be used to build buzz in advance of a print release – potentially moving an ok seller to onto the best seller lists.

Understanding how people behave when they consume media in specific formats opens the potential for more that reaching niche audiences – it may also enable specific promotional outcomes.