Allow me to explain the lengthy and confusing title.
I had read Seth Godin's blog about Subtlety the other day. It was the standard straight forward common sense you expect.
However, something was missing that occurred to me while driving in the car and listening to the radio. Subtle relies on the context doesn't it?
In Seth's example, only two Skull and Bones folks would KNOW that they were in that organization based on the secret handshake right?
It's about the association you can place with the communication. Back to me in the car and the radio, I heard two songs back to back on different radio stations.
First was the sublime Beach Boys song "Don't Worry Baby" that was used to excellent effect in the Drew Barrymore movie "Never Been Kissed." I heard the song and I could ACTUALLY see the scene where the song played. It was the final climatic scene. Very nice. Now only someone who saw the movie and probably liked it could make the connection.
Cover of Never Been Kissed
Decidedly less subtle was the second song from ANOTHER Drew Barrymore movie, Charlie's Angels. "Independent Women" from Destiny's Child beats you over the head with references to the movie. It opens with the lyrics "Lucy Liu... with my girl, Drew... Cameron D. and Destiny, Charlie's Angels..."
Even if you NEVER saw the film, you would have to know that the song is related to the movie, or TV show if you are old enough, I suppose.
This serendipitous listening event (weird no?) really hit me. While you might be able to communicate in a broad manner to get something across, can you build something into what you are doing that will remind people of who, what you are without bludgeoning them with it?