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Intonation Impacts Marketing Content Campaign relevance

How often have you heard or said; “what does that mean?”

Stressing a word or phrase when speaking, by saying it longer, louder or with higher intonation, will indicate to the reader or listener which word or phrase is key. By stressing the correct word, you make it easier for the listener to grasp the meaning of your sentence. However, if you put emphasis on the wrong word, then you can change the meaning completely.

Clearly words matter and punctuation matters more. If we accept that content marketing is “used to attract and develop a specific target audience with the ultimate goal of creating true customer engagement” (, then, in my view, intonation matters most. This is particularly relevant when the recipient is expected to read your content in the absence of any additional explanation.

In linguistics, intonation refers to the variation of pitch and stress when pronouncing words. Its function in language is to distinguish meaning. In English we have four kinds of intonation patterns: (1) falling, (2) rising, (3) non-final, and (4) wavering intonation.

Let us have a look

What do you think this sentence means? I did not say he stole the money.

Not sure? The communicator undoubtedly had a specific meaning in mind prior to communicating. Let us try reading each sentence out aloud and emphasizing the underlined word. Try it a few times changing the pitch of the emphasized word each time.

  • I did not say he stole the money.

(Somebody said that he stole the money, but I did not say it.)

  • I did not say he stole the money.

(I may have implied that he stole the money, but I did not actually say it.)

  •  I did not say he stole the money.

(The money has been stolen, but I did not say it was him.)

  •  I did not say he stole the money.

(He has taken the money, but I did not say he was stealing.)

  •  I did not say he stole the money.

(He has stolen something, but I did not say it was the money.)


Yes, an eight-word sentence that has at least five distinguishable meanings. This is not very encouraging, particularly when considering that (a) marketing content creators typically want to create a certain type of, campaign-specific, customer engagement within a specific target audience, and (b) there are typically permutations of brand awareness, sales and/or engagement ‘call to action’ related ROI metrics.

So, what are we to do? The way I like to ask the question is, “How do I ensure that my content is campaign-relevant?”

Let’s face it: No one knows exactly how content is going to resonate with the target audience. Whilst experienced content marketers may have an idea of what might work, you never really know until the ‘rubber hits the road’.

In my experience contextualizing visuals and A/B testing are two components that should be part of every content marketer’s ‘toolkit’.

Supporting visuals provide perspective and A/B testing can assist with target audience reaction sensing. Rather than hoping that a content strategy works, A/B testing encourages a marketer to ask and answer, “What will work? And what should be changed?” By employing A/B testing on your content you can improve the campaign relevance of that content, and ultimately better drive the intended behaviour and actions.

For further information on how intonation changes meaning, see

For further information on how to A/B test your content, see


Happy testing!

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