Why simplicity sells
October 19, 2012
Back in June I wrote a post about the need to keep your communications simple.
Actually, I lie. That’s what I intended to write. But I got so involved in defining the problem that there was no room left for anything else.
So, returning to the subject, why is it so important to keep your communications simple?
Because that’s what people want!
My brain hurts
Most of today’s consumers (apart from teenagers who never knew any different) are plagued by the complexities of modern life – the fact that doing anything, from programming a TV to sorting a problem with the bank, or booking a train ticket to understanding how exam grades work at GCSE (levels 1 & 2), AS and A levels (not forgetting A2s, diplomas, BTECs, OCR Nationals, GNVQs and the UCAS tariff), is infernally perplexing.
They’re also punch drunk with information. Messages are being fired at them in ever greater quantities though a rapidly expanding number of channels and devices. People have got most of what they want already, so their unmet needs tend to be emotional – one of the main ones being the need to be left in peace so they can “chill out” in their “own space” without incessant interruptions from annoying people attempting to grab their attention.
People’s heads are full up. As a friend said to me the other day “If I’m going to let a new bit of information into my brain I’ll have to take something else out to make room for it.”
Simple is smart
Want to win some new customers? Then keep your message incredibly simple.
Yes, it needs to be relevant to the target audience, and offer them something they want. Yes, it has to be presented in an attractive way. And yes, it probably helps if it is emotionally engaging (funny, entertaining, seductive, or whatever). But, above all, it must be simple.
If your message looks even slightly complicated people will instantly ignore it.
Simplicity has always been valued
Some of the smartest people, even from times gone by when life was less complex, have understood the value of simplicity. And they express it better than me.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci
“Brevity is the soul of wit.” Shakespeare
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” Charles Mingus
“Less is more.” Mies van der Rohe
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Einstein
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Einstein
“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein
“Any fool can make things more complicated. And most do.” Anon
The best marketing messages are simple
Those that know what they are doing in the world of marketing and advertising also put a premium on simplicity.
“The first rule here is set deeply in stone, yet regularly transgressed. ‘Say one thing and one thing only.’” Dominic Gettins in “How to write great copy”
“Most campaigns are too complicated. They reflect a long list of objectives, and try to reconcile the divergent views of too many executives. By attempting to cover too many things, they achieve nothing.” David Ogilvy in “Ogilvy on Advertising”
However, none makes a more strenuous case for simplicity than Saatchi & Saatchi (now M&C Saatchi). They were obsessive about it when I worked there, and they are obsessive about it now. If you’d visited their website a couple of years ago you’d have found the declaration that “MC Saatchi is founded on the principle of Brutal Simplicity. Brutal Simplicity is at the heart of everything we do. From creative thinking to creative work. From how we are structured to the systems we use. Brutal Simplicity runs through the culture of every single one of our offices, all around the world.”
They went on to explain their reasoning. “It’s easier to complicate than to simplify. Simple messages enter the brain quicker and stay there longer. Brutal Simplicity of Thought is a painful necessity. The strongest brands are the simplest. The most valuable can be described in one word. We provide our clients with the global ownership of one word. One word equity requires Brutal Simplicity of Thought.”
At the top of several web pages they had a quote from Maurice Saatchi; “As the world gets more complicated communications must become more simple.”
It you visit M&C Saatchi website today, and click the ‘philosophy’ tab, you’ll find the same message. But simplified even further.
Message comes before medium
Making things simple is tough. It takes time, work, intelligence and the sheer bloody-minded self-discipline to persevere. As Blaise Pascal noted to a friend in the mid-17th century “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.”
But it’s worth it. Especially now.
Next time you need a new website, brochure, banner, or e-shot don’t go looking for someone who does websites, brochures, banners or e-shots. What you actually need is someone who can take your complicated offering and express it in a way that’s simple.