Simon Hall is an ex-BBC journalist and reporter who is now a lecturer at Cambridge Judge Business School. In this podcast, he explains why the simplest messages are often the most powerful and urges us all to rediscover the power of simplicity.
As marketers, we are often guilty of overcomplicating our messages. Whether it’s our printed marketing material, the posts we put out on social media, or the content we publish on our blogs (and our clients’ blogs), there’s a tendency to use more words than we actually need.
But as Simon explains using some fantastic examples, simplicity – when used correctly – is extremely powerful.
Some of the most famous books ever written
Consider these book openings:
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
- “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984 by George Orwell
- “All children, except one, grow up.” Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
- “Call me Ishmael.” Moby Dick by Herman Melville
They are all brilliant in their own way. But the one thing they have in common is simplicity.
Take Pride and Prejudice, for example. In just 23 words, Jane Austin tells you that (a) it’s a romance and (b) she’s a damn fine writer. Plus the intriguing way she opens compels you to read on. All that in just 23 words!
In 1984, George Orwell starts off conforming to normality and then veers off sharply at the end, creating a sense of intrigue and piquing your interest to keep reading.
The power of simplicity…
Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address
What about the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln’s monumental speech on November 19, 1863 that changed the way Americans viewed themselves and their government.
But it only contained around 278 words! Now we say “around” because the exact length differs depending on which version you read. The point is Abraham Lincoln was able to deliver an iconic, world-famous message in less than 300 words – most blog posts are longer than that!
The power of simplicity…
Simple slogans and catchphrases
Some simple examples of slogans and catchphrases, each brilliant in its own way:
- “Because I’m worth it” – L’Oréal Paris
- “Snap, Crackle & Pop” – Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
- “D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
- “Never knowingly undersold” – John Lewis
- “All for one and one for all” – The Three Musketeers – togetherness, spirit of togetherness
- “Labour’s not working” – Margaret Thatcher’s famous 1979 election slogan
- “You’re fired!” – Alan Sugar, he’s in charge, he’s ruthless
Again, they are all extremely simple, yet impactful and instantly recognisable.
L’Oréal Paris even changed its slogan in the mid-2000s to “Because you’re worth it” and then to “Because we’re worth it” in late 2009. The brand’s line for kids goes with “Because we’re worth it too”.
If this doesn’t highlight the power of simplicity, then nothing will. All those changes, yet the same core concept/message was retained throughout.
Movie summaries that have attracted tons of likes
How about these simple movie summaries that have all attracted lots of attention online:
- “Strange group of friends spend nine hours returning jewellery” – Lord of the Rings
- “Fishing trip goes badly wrong” – Jaws
- “Mad factory owner kills children one by one in front of their parents” – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- “Leonardo DiCaprio wanders a frozen wasteland in search of an Oscar” – The Revenant
- “Girl hits head, dreams about fancy shoes” – Wizard of Oz
- “Father and son don’t get along, universe suffers” – Star Wars
Brilliantly simple, extremely engaging and with the potential to go viral because people can instantly relate to them.
The power of simplicity…
But always be remembered for the right reasons
You want your simplistic slogan, catchphrase or piece of marketing material to trend for the right reasons only. That’s why it’s imperative that you check every single piece of marketing collateral you create for errors. Whether that’s picking up on typos or sanity checking the actual meaning, thorough checking can save a lot of embarrassment.
So while less is more and you should always aim to keep your messages shorter for maximum impact, don’t be too hasty to hit the ‘post’ button.
Remember, the average attention span is around 10 seconds, so that’s all the time you’ve got to make an impact and hook someone. So try to use the absolute minimum number of words and pictures that you possibly can in any situation to drive better results.
And finally, perhaps the greatest example of using simplicity to create a multi-billion pound business is Google. A webpage that features a small box, but which enables people to search the entire contents of the World Wide Web is absolutely mind-blowing.
Sometimes, we just need to get back to basics and rediscover the power of simplicity once again.
Get on the list - join the wednesday @ two club
We're all marketers here, so know the promise of 'the latest news, straight to your inbox' isn't gonna fly around these parts.
Our newsletter will be valuable to you because we share one mission with you: the desire to make you a better marketer.
Sign up and we'll make it nice and easy for you to achieve that mission by sending you the newsletter every week at 2PM on a Wednesday. If that isn't what you want - no worries, this newsletter probably isn't right for you (and at the end of the day, noone needs another newsletter they don't read in their inbox!)
Join the club below 🙂
How I grew my newsletter to 38,000 people in a year (and how you can do it too) – Harry Dry, Founder of Marketing Examples
May 2019. Harry wrote his first marketing article.
A year and a half later his email list hit 38k.
No ads. No connections. No existing audience. The newsletter grew because Harry learnt how to push my content round the internet. In this talk he explains the process.
A strong personal brand is something people say you need all the time, but rarely tell you how. That’s where Ash and Claudia come in.
So, what is the difference between management and leadership? Penny Ferguson, Founder of The Living Leader, explains.
How to be a great leader: Penny Ferguson, Founder of The Living Leader & Catherine Newman, CMO of Manchester United
We interview Penny Ferguson and Catherine Newman – two people who have dedicated their lives to great leadership, whether that is in theory or practice.
Linkedin just launched its new stories feature. Here is what Linkedin stories are, and what we think it means for marketers.
I thought I’d share some thoughts on the things I’ve learned about Linkedin after getting 2,000,000 views in 10 months.
Landing pages are the first impression of your website. Landing pages should be easy to read, simple, attractive, and have relevant keywords and Call To Actions. But that isn’t all.
All marketers love reading lists. So here are The Marketing Meetup community’s recommendations for books you should be reading to become smarter.
Everyone explains that standing out is critical. They get your creative circuits firing. Your future depends on it. Nothing matters more.
But how do you *actually* do it is another story. Yes, there are some books around positioning for brands with big ad budgets or for B2B software companies, but what about the rest? How do you actually do it if the product or service you’re selling isn’t remarkable in itself? How do you actually do it if you want to start small and make just one of your blog posts stand out?
Positioning Jujitsu – How to Win Against Powerful Competitors with April Dunford, Author of Obviously Awesome
In this session, April teaches you how smart positioning can ensure you outrun the Hordes, use the strength of the Giants against them, and bust the Ghosts by leveraging the momentum of trends.