Rhyme Time

In presentations, I occasionally use the O.J. Simpson murder trial as an example of how our mind creates meaning through mental shortcuts.  In closing arguments Simpson’s attorney, Johnnie Cochrane, famously declared to the jury, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

Whether Cochrane knew it at the time or not, there is actually a large body of research that suggests that phrases that rhyme are deemed more credible than similar phrases that don’t – in one study rhyming statements were judged as 22% more accurate than their non-rhyming counterparts.  So if Cochrane had said, “If he can’t get the glove on his hand, you must acquit,” that statement would not have been nearly as memorable, and likely not as persuasive. (This is actually part of an academic field of study, cognitive poetics.)

Thanks to OZ's Randy Adis for sharing this article about the use of rhyme in advertising.  It is diminishing, despite its potential power.

The authors claim this is because clients and agencies aren’t thinking about advertising in the right way:

"I think it depends on what end of the process you start from: Broadcast or Receive. If you start from the “Broadcast” end you start with what you want to say. You then execute that in a way that pleases you. You then sit back and wait for the response from the audience. If you start from the “Receive” end you start with the person you want to reach. They will be on the end of about 2K advertising messages a day. Most of it they automatically just block out, so it’s invisible. So the brief is how to break through into their mind and become one of the very few they notice and remember."

The authors suggest that rhyming, alliteration, and assonance (repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words, like “The crumbling thunder of the seas”) will increase the odds of an ad being noticed in such a crowded marketing landscape.