Communication Failures — Bad for you and your brand

In Cool Hand Luke, the famous 1967 film staring Paul Newman, the captain of the prison guards tells a prisoner named Luke that the sound of his chains clicking should remind him that what he was being told was for his own good.

The wise-cracking Luke replies, “I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.”

But Luke’s humor is not appreciated. The guard knocks him down a small hill into a ditch and tells Luke, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

Even though the guard’s grammar was not perfect, his message was pretty clear.

Unfortunately, many of the messages we receive today are not always clear, correct or effective.

What follows, in no particular order, are a few my favorite “failures to communicate.” They don’t work — and worse, they reflect badly on the people and organizations they represent.

  1. “I deleted that file on accident,” said my young intern. I winced. I didn’t care about the file, but the fact that she didn’t know things happen BY accident or they are done ON purpose ensured that she would never be hired after the internship was over.
  2. A lot. Apparently, a lot of people don’t seem to realize that “alot” is not a word.
  3. Parents with their faces buried in their smart phones when they’re with their children. Every time the toddler has something to share, they look up and see the back of a phone instead of Mom’s or Dad’s face. That’s because the parents are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram checking on the single lives they no longer have or posting photos of every move their kid makes to “save the moment.” Here’s an idea: instead of saving every moment, be fully present in a few.
  4. Speedometers in subcompact cars with a top speed of 140 mph. Um…why?
  5. You should give “110 percent,” says your coach or boss. How is that possible without performance-enhancing drugs?
  6. Apple inserting a “free” U2 album in iPhone users’ iTunes file whether they want it or not. I’d rather have one of the 100 million dollars Apple paid for the old rockers’ record.
  7. Grieving For Dummies. Yes, the popular series of books claims it approaches this subject with “sensitivity.” Really? Did you check the title?
  8. DiGiorno Pizza’s tagline: “It’s not delivery,” claims the tagline, “It’s DiGiorno.” How is sitting on your butt and ordering a hot pizza delivered to your door a negative comparison?
  9. Girls calling other girls “Dude.” We have enough gender confusion. Let’s not start another category.
  10. Multiple bumper stickers. I can handle one or two. But don’t ask me to watch out for motorcycles, vote for Obama, abstain from texting while driving and also make me look at the stick figure illustration of your family.
  11. “Post-game analysis.” Do we really need someone to tell us what we just saw? One team won the game and one team lost. Announce the final score and get off the air. Blue Bloods was supposed to start ten minutes ago.
  12. News. News used to be “Here is what happened.” Now it’s “Here is how everybody feels about what happened.”

OK, that’s it for now. I urge you to avoid these “failures to communicate” and others like them. Otherwise, you risk ending up like Luke — at the bottom of the hill.

About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Email questions and comments to and connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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