The screen door is broke and there’s a Dodge on the lawn.
The neighbor keeps wondering what the fuck’s going on.
So, he peeks in the window and he sees everything bad.
Truth be known that peek in the window, probably was the best peek he ever had.
I’ll preface today’s piece by stating that, in my opinion, the band Bad Company is one of the most undervalued bands in rock n’ roll. The band has sold over 40 million records worldwide and when you consider a catalog that includes hits like “Bad Company”, Can’t Get Enough”, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad”, “Ready For Love”, “Shooting Star” and “Rock ‘n roll Fantasy”, it leaves me curious as to why they aren’t included in more serious discussions regarding classic rock’s most influential bands.
Plus, their first album cover (pictured above), in my view, is nothing short of a cultural icon in terms of design. A flattened stark field of undisturbed black emblazoned with the band’s simple five letter logo slashing across the album cover like a white hot comet tearing through space at 50,000 mph. It’s arguably one of the most instantly recognizable records in all of rock ‘n roll.
However, while music is a popular interest here at Kingdom of Failure, it’s not what we’re gathered here today to talk about. If you want to talk music, we can set something up. I’ll be wide open after the 22nd.
Today’s story is about good communication. It’s about clarity, breakthrough and emotional resonance. The pillars of effective marketing. And to demonstrate their power today, we’ll be breaking down Bad Company’s chart topping single from the 1975 album Straight Shooter— “Feel Like Makin’ Love”.
The song is sung from a man to a woman as he describes the way he feels when he thinks about her. This is difficult messaging. I’m a man and more specifically I’m a man who through-out the years has told several women the way I feel when I think about them. Some of those discussions have gone better than others. It’s a tricky task, requiring a deft, steady hand and subtle nuancing abilities that you don’t want to fumble.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that a poorly strategized, unrehearsed and rambling dedication will do you no favors in the quest to have your expression properly received. But just like in advertising, if we use clear and compelling, human language that is direct as possible but also engaging and emotional at the same time our messaging will be at its most powerful.
So, let’s break it down line by line. My hope is that you’ll take away some nice thoughts on communicating clearly and possibly even a tiny little lesson on love. The song begins with a laid back acoustic melody that one can only describe as down-home, warm and welcoming. It sets the tone for the heartfelt messaging that is about to come when the singer, Paul Rodgers, exclaims almost matter-of-factly:
"Baby, when I think about you."
This is a strong beginning. I don’t know when lovers started calling each other baby, but I remember I was about 16 the first time I said it to a girl and it made me feel like a 37 year-old man with really thick chest hair and a steady job working for the city. As the vocals continue the singer leverages the universal insight that there’s nothing people love more than knowing that you’re thinking about them. I don’t know how much data they had back in 1973, but I’ve got a heck of a Mintel study that I smuggled out of an agency a few years ago that confirms it.
So, now the acoustic melody has the listener relaxed and receptive. Someone’s just been called, baby. Which triggers feelings of trust and security engrained deep in our childhood memories. And according to Mintel data, 92% of women over the age of 7 minutes enjoy being told that someone is thinking about them. So, rest assured, that lever has been thoroughly pulled.
However, if the first line was what I’d call smart messaging, the second line is nothing short of Mensa level. Essentially, it’s simply the answer to the first line. The man has just told the woman that he’s thinking about her. This alone may or may not pique the woman’s interest. So, to avoid a lack of clarity and even worse a lack of conviction, the next line is obligated to say what, in fact, the man thinks of when he’s doing all of this thinking. The answer is very simple. However, when one takes a step back we discover the true impact of the vocal.
"I think about love."
You’re damn right, you think about love. When you’re the right kind of man and she’s the right kind of lady and all is well in the universe, there is simply no way to avoid it. Nor would one want to. The genius here is in the phrasing. He doesn’t say that he thinks about how much he loves her. That would be pedestrian and lack impact. He simply says that he thinks about love. As in the concept itself. The very essence of our purpose. To love and be loved. That’s what the man is thinking about when he thinks about her.
A less experienced lover would strain to come up with the proper metaphors, illustrative references and poetically structured phrases to properly address their thoughts. And I’m a firm believer that messaging is most powerful when it’s stripped down to its most basic elements—preferably universal ones. To tell someone that when you think about them you think about the higher level concept of deep human connection in its most powerful and comprehensive form is a statement of affection much grander than it appears. Yes, it’s a category sell. But in this case the singer is simply assuming ownership of the entire love industry. That, my friends, is how a brand acts as a leader.
As we continue along the song’s journey we receive another nugget of good communication wisdom. Provide a consequence to ensure action. Whether you’re selling a llama or a lampshade, nothing promotes clarity like showing what can happen if your advice is not heeded. Professing one’s love is an emotional transaction but a transaction none-the-less. So the singer pleads his case.
"Darlin’, couldn't live without you and your love."
This is a pro move. A tricky one but definitely the mark of an experienced persuader. In a stroke of table turning genius that should only be attempted by players who are levels intermediate to advanced, the consequences are placed not on the buyer but on the seller himself.
It’s a bold, risky and disruptive move that can easily backfire so tread carefully. Because the truth is that you’ll move on if the feeling isn’t mutual. But you don’t want her to know that. Could you live without her? Sure. There’s lots of fish in the sea. But if you really want her to love you with all of her heart then you’ll make sure she knows that she’s the only flounder for you.
"If I had those golden dreams of my yesterday. I would wrap you in the heavens And feel it dyin' all the way."
To be honest he kind of loses me here. I don’t know exactly what he’s saying but it isn’t offending me either. I’ve been at this communication stuff for over 25 years. I’m good at my craft but I’m not Bad Company good at my craft. So it’s possible he’s doing a bit of tone setting, with a broader brush stroke—like an artist playing with the highlights and lowlights in a moody landscape. It doesn’t matter though. The real magic is about to happen. And for this he’ll need his lead guitarist, a chunky D chord and the patience of a zen master.
It’s time for the call to action. And boy howdy are we given a strong one. Not only is the messaging clear but the timing, delivery and tonal attitudes take us to a rarefied place of persuasive power that’s nothing short of undeniable. It’s subtlety, wrapped in dynamite as the singer exclaims:
"I feel like makin’…"
And then, before we even are told what it is he feels like makin’, guitarist Mick Ralph steps in with what I believe is a Gibson Les Paul run through a Marshall Stack, and lays out three stanzas of the most perfectly structured D power chords ever played. The singer doesn’t need to say what he’s feelin’. Not just yet. He’ll let you know soon enough.
Right now, like a gentleman, he’s allowing the moment to linger and the anticipation to accumulate. As the last meaty chord is thrust onto the listener like a 72 oz steak that no one could possibly finish nor resist, we’re given another juicy declaration.
"I feel like makin’ love." Fuck yeah. I feel like makin’ love too man. I feel like makin’ some serious god damned love if you don’t mind me saying so. And then, again, like a gentleman, he backs off at the last second and steps aside to allow the power of music to amplify his messaging—
— before finally closing the sale.
"I feel like makin' love to you."
Not her. Not him. I feel like making love to you. This is an exclusive offer. Act now. And there you have it. One of the most difficult tasks in messaging. Telling someone that you’re thinking about them, that you love them, that you feel like making love and it’s you that the love making is intended for.
That’s the kind of communication you don’t want to be lacking clarity on. Because if you screw it up, you’ll be listening to a different song from the band’s catalog. That one, of course, being “Good Lovin’, Gone Bad”.
Thanks for reading. I'll see you again soon.