Great marketing sounds like country music.

No, I don’t mean trucks, love, or dogs. Nor does it involve cowboy hats or tractors.

Maybe I should clarify here: great marketing is like a sad country song. It has nothing to do with lost love or D-I-V-O-R-C-E (for you non-country music fans, that’s a song title). Instead, let’s focus on why country music is so sad.

Specifically, why country music is the saddest of all genres. And for a good explanation, I turn to Malcolm Gladwell.

On season 2 of his Revisionist History podcast last year, Gladwell dedicated an entire episode to sad country songs. He looked at the history of country music through the life and lyrics of Bobby Braddock, the man credited with writing more sad country songs than anyone else.

Gladwell looks at the difficult life of Braddock, along with the lives of famous country music singers and songwriters. Every musician he covers shares one thing in common: a difficult life event.

While walking listeners through this episode, Gladwell compares country music to rock & roll – specifically the sad songs. And it’s in this comparison that he reveals why a country song is more likely to make you cry than a Rolling Stones ballad:

Country music is specific.

By sharing concrete ideas, places, and emotions, listeners put themselves in the song. They relate to what they hear because it feels real; it’s something from their past or something they enjoy.

Why do songwriters use this tactic? Because it works. Every time.

As Luke Laird said on the Building a StoryBrand podcast last year, great songwriters create word pictures that feel familiar. It’s as if the writer thinks about us specifically, then creates a lyric we understand. When we understand, we connect.

And when people connect, they take action.

In marketing, we want to write emails, blogs, or website text that people can relate to. We work hard to craft the perfect message, hoping it resonates with our target audience. Yet it sometimes feels as though things aren’t connecting.

If you want to reach more people in your message, then get specific.

Focus on things that matter to your customers, not the features and benefits of your product. Consider what your audience cares about, then create content designed to resonate specifically with that audience. Position your message in a way that your ideal customer knows your solution is the best solution for their problems.

Country music isn’t the most poetic or complicated music on the planet. Everyone knows that. But it doesn’t matter. Country stars are consistently the top artists each year in every possible category. Why? Because they sing songs people understand, and when they understand, they connect.

Getting specific means you’re clear to your audience. You convey a sense of empathy for their situation. You talk to them in a way that resonates with them. Those who resonate with people create loyal fans. And what do loyal fans do?

They become customers.

If you’re looking for better ideas to improve your marketing message, then start with a sad country song.

Like this one.

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