Sunday, November 25, 2012


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

Simplicity is the key to making everything better.

At least, it certainly seems that way.  Every time some expert gives "X Tips for Better [Anything]," one of the tips that comes up the most is, "keep things simple."

In marketing, it's often seen alongside classics such as, "do your research," and "test everything."

It's not just a marketing tip either.  You hear that same piece of advice in almost any discipline.  Martial artists will tell you that simple moves and tactics are often more effective than big, showy techniques(which is why MMA matches look nothing like Jet Li movies).  The same goes for sports.  And have you ever seen Kitchen Nightmares?  Gordon Ramsay talks about "simple recipes" so much you could make a drinking game of it(and some people have).

Keeping things simple makes it hard to get them wrong.  Simple messages are easy to understand, and simple executions are hard to screw up.

This is important in marketing because people are constantly trying to avoid you.  Marketing is intrusive, it gets in the way of what people really want.  It's an interruption of their favorite TV show, an extra page to turn to get to that article they want to read, or a sponsored post that they have to scroll past to see what their friends are up to.

But a simple message becomes almost impossible to ignore.  As soon as you see it, you understand it.  A simple execution makes things even better because the whole process is over as quick as possible.  There is a minimum amount of intrusion on the consumer's time, so they are much less irritated by the interruption.

This is not to say that complexity has no place.  Anyone who was into video games around 2004 might remember the I Love Bees campaign to promote Halo 2.  People were required to stand by pay phones waiting for them to ring, share information with others from around the world, and crack codes, often with no idea what those codes were for.

Thousands of people from around the world participated, the website was viewed by over 3 million visitor in three months, and the campaign won several awards.

If you want another great example of complicated promotions, look at almost anything Red Bull is doing these days.  Their extreme-sports powered Rube Goldberg device(dubbed The Athlete Machine) is probably more complicated and daring than anything that would ever be dreamt of by other marketers.

Because of the complexity of these campaigns, a casual consumer cannot simply glance at it, get the message, and then move on.  It acts as a filter so only the more dedicated consumers will bother with the content.

With this smaller, more dedicated audience comes an incredible level of engagement.  Unlike the intrusive ads that people try to avoid, these campaigns will be sought out and shared by the consumers.

As I already said, though, simple makes things easy.  Making another campaign like I Love Bees requires experienced professionals who know how to pull that sort of thing off, as well as a sizable budget.  It's not something a small business with just an intern would want to attempt.

In Marketing-and martial arts, and cooking, and life-complexity can have its place, but you can't go wrong with keeping things simple.

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