A funny thing sometimes happens when I go into Starbucks to order my usual triple-shot cappuccino. (Or at least it used to before I bought a reusable cup - but that would ruin the story)

When it was my turn to be served in the queue, the person serving me would scribble my order on the side of the cup and then, as they invariably do, ask me my name to christen the cup for the waiting barista.

“Neil” I’d reply over the counter.

I’d then pay my dues and wait for my coffee to be made, firing through a couple of emails whilst listening for my cup to be called out along with the rest of the group as we played out our tedious game of early morning espresso bingo.

However, what quite often happens is, a cup of coffee gets placed upon the counter and sits there vacant and alone like Liam Neeson at a casting session.

Why? Because there’s one of two things written on it. ‘Liam’ or ‘Leo’. The person at the till (and this happens in more than one branch) hasn’t picked my name up correctly.

It’s not hard to see why this happens. Consider the busy coffee shop. There are all sorts of interference and noises to get in the way of me sending my message to my receiver behind the till.

Packed with morning commuters on their way to work, the shop is filled chatter. Music plays out of speakers overhead. An espresso machine hisses angrily and churns out compressed coffee. Waves of traffic noise floods in every time the door opens. The person behind the till is trying to stay engaged, but they’ve already seen and heard a hundred names before I rocked up. And perhaps they stayed up last night trying to finish yet another Netflix box set. They’re standing there and see a queue of ten people waiting to be served after you.

And there’s me, in a hurry, a little tired too as my 3 year old got up at 5am. Most likely I didn’t project my voice and was probably quite lazy with my syllables.

It’s actually not far off the world of advertising. Brands and messages are forever trying to compete with all the background noise out there. Think of all the things that compete for our attention on a daily basis – TV, Whatsapp, Facebook, Spotify, Instagram, emails. YouTube, Netflix, Prime, cinema, newspapers, magazines, books, fashion, friends, work, family, travelling, sleep, food, relationships, hobbies and so on. Any form of advertising has to compete for our attention with all these things. No one is looking for adverts, they present themselves in busy environments while we’re doing something else. Essentially, the receiver isn’t exactly engaged and the reality is they’re just trying to get through their day.

And if someone sees an ad while going about their day, the chances are, they’ve probably heard and seen it all before along with the hundred or so they’ve already been faced with that day.

Therefore it’s our job to communicate in a way that survives the interference. We need to find ways to make our message loud and clear. To make sure that whoever we are speaking to is more willing to accept our message. It’s not their fault if they get confused, can’t be bothered or simply misunderstand us. It’s our job to make sure they walk away having heard “Neil” and not “Leo” or “Liam”.

Written by Leo Liam Neil D. Walker