Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, was a notoriously mercurial and mercenary businessman. Although Gordy was responsible for some of the most powerful, popular, and passionate R&B and soul music ever created, the stories of him making musical decisions based on finances instead of aesthetics are legion. What’s more, Gordy insisted on ironclad creative control even though he was working with many of the best artists in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, and so many more.
One of Gordy’s most famous mottos was, “Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.”
If you’re not familiar with musical terminology, the chorus is the part of a song that recurs at regular intervals, usually following each verse. The verse is the part of a song following the introduction and preceding and following the chorus and it’s usually sung by a solo voice. The verse tells the unfolding story of the song, the chorus repeats the theme of the song.
Put in Motown song’s terms, “I heard it through the grapevine. Not much longer would you be mine” is the chorus. So is “So take a good look at my face. You’ll see my smile looks out of place. If you look closer it’s easy to trace, the tracks of my tears.” And so is, “I guess you’d say, ‘What can make me feel this way?’ My girl (my girl, my girl), Talkin’ ‘bout my girl (my girl).”
Hard not to sing along with the chorus, isn’t it?
Gordy wanted his stars to get to the chorus because the chorus is the hook of the song that we all know and love. While the verse is where we might mumble the words, the chorus is where we all sing along.
Take Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” for example. When you sing along, it sounds like this:
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s [mumble mumble mumble]
Was in the spring, and spring became the summer
Who’d have believed [mumble mumble mumble]”
We’re mumbling because we don’t actually know all the words to the verses. But then we get to the chorus and everybody sings out loud…
“Sweet Caroline (bum bum bum), good times never seemed so good!!”
It’s the same with “America the Beautiful,” most Bruce Springsteen songs, and absolutely everything ever written by Bob Dylan. (Except for my friend Phil Allen, who knows every single word to every single Dylan song. But that’s a whole other conversation for a whole other blog.)
“Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.” What does this have to do with your business and your brand?
It’s simple. When you’re marketing yourself and your company, stop talking about all the things you have and all the things you do and all the things you offer. Those are the verses.
Instead, sell yourself by getting to your chorus – because that’s your brand value.
Volvo’s verses are metal and rubber and leather and fuel injection systems and engines and upholstery and glass and transmissions.
Volvo’s chorus is safety.
Las Vegas’ verses are hotels and shows and restaurants and casinos and bars and boutiques and neon lights and performers and swimming pools and hot weather.
Las Vegas’ chorus is sin.
Your verses are everything you do. Your chorus is everything we remember about you and care about.
If you want your business and your brand to be successful, do like Berry Gordy Jr. Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.