‘Never be afraid of something you can whistle.’
That was the advice Burt Bacharach’s mentor gave him when he was studying at music school in California in the 1940s – and he took it to heart.
While other songwriters wrestled to stay relevant with contemporary musical styles and lyrical complexity, Bacharach went straight for the melody every time.
Which didn’t make him cool – but did make him incredibly successful throughout a career spanning seven decades.
Walk on by.
I say a little prayer.
Raindrops keep falling on my head.
I’ll never fall in love again.
Bacharach wrote some of the biggest hits for some of the biggest stars in music: Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, Elvis Costello, Adele. They liked his songs for the same reason everyone else liked them: because they were simple and catchy.
Which is why that mentor’s advice is equally useful for anyone working in any area of communication or engagement.
You can spend a lot of time and effort agonising about how to make your message clever or fashionable or award-winning. Or you can make it something people want to whistle.
Guess which they prefer?