Make Your Message Be What Matters:
A Lesson from a McDonald’s Happy Meal

The following guest post is by Abraham Piper, web content editor for Desiring God ministries and author of one of my favorite new blogs, 22 Words.

My son brought home a toy from McDonald’s yesterday. It’s a little plastic singer named “Hippie Harmony” that plays a 6-note tune whenever you lift her “microphone arm.”

Hippie Harmony.jpg
Every note that warbles from the cheap speaker in the back of her head is now stuck in my head.

We all know what it’s like to be unable to stop humming a catchy tune. But as we hum, it’s not usually the whole tune. The only part stuck in our mouth and reeling us in is the hook.

Hippie Harmony’s song is only a hook.

Of course, the toy’s tune is not a good pop song, because it’s just 2 seconds long, but it gets its message across. I’m humming it.

Sometimes our writing, preaching, marketing, or any kind of important content-creation should be like a well-crafted pop song: 97% forgettable context making the 3% that is a hook even more memorable.

Other times, the content should be all hook, 100%. Like Hippie Harmony, we should sing it, say it, or write it–and then be done. Sit down.

Either way, we need a hook–a point. Then, whatever we write or say beyond that should serve readers by enhancing that point.

Because, after all, the point is…the point. We’re not. Good writers, preachers, marketers, etc. get out of the way of their message.

Hippie Harmony will be in the garbage soon. That is to say, if she had an RSS feed, I wouldn’t subscribe. Still, no matter what municipal dump she ends up in, her effect–small as it may be–is staying right here in my mind.

As she gets trucked away, I’ll be humming her tune.

To most people, our articles, blogs, sermons, and sales pitches are like low-grade plastic doohickeys: Hopefully, we’re not a nuisance to have around–in fact, we might be somewhat helpful or convicting or amusing. But when it comes down to it, we’re simply not that important in and of ourselves.

But we keep writing, blogging, preaching, and selling!

It’s not that surprising, I suppose–we have messages that really matter to us. We can’t shut up–we’re too excited about what we have to say.

This is exactly how it should be. The message of what we write or say is what will make our contribution to the blogosphere or church service matter to people.

Any time we’re creating content that we think is important we should constantly think, how can I cast my hook so it lodges most securely (and helpfully) in my readers’ minds. Sometimes it will be amid a lengthy article with all kinds of supporting text. And other times, like this McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, we’ll just sing our 6 notes and be quiet.

Either way, the goal is never to make ourselves more valuable to more people, but to leave behind a message that will serve an audience who may very well have already forgotten who we are. If our content is important and we heed our hook, people will still be humming our songs long after you and I have gone the way of Hippie Harmony.

Abraham Piper practices the “Hippie Harmony” method of getting to the point at his blog 22 Words. He also edits and contributes to the Desiring God Blog.

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • Matt Reimer

    Anecdote of a concise message (terse, even):
    A church in LA back in the early 80’s priding itself for its missions-mindedness had a weekly “Missions Minute.” One Sunday a man stood before the people and asked “how many are praying for the hostages in Iran?” Many hands were raised. “How many are praying for the captors, for the Iranians?” Just a few hands raised. “And you call yourselves a missions-minded church?”
    And he sat down.
    (His message almost qualifies for 22 words.)

  • ScottR

    Makes sense, but then it took him 17 paragraphs to say it. Could have stopped at about 3 if he really wanted to take his own advice.

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