Is simple really better?

“The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without.”

–Ernest Hemingway

As someone who spends a significant amount of time brainstorming, I’ve often found that people tend to overthink things. They labor for long hours trying to shape elevated portions of the Earth’s crust into formations with steep sides and significant exposed bedrock, from what would otherwise be a mound of loose soil made by a small burrowing animal.

In other words, they make a mountain out of a mole hill.

We’ve had clients participate in brainstorms who initially approach their marketing strategy with the idea that everything must be included. They have a deeply ingrained need to put the entirety of their thoughts and expectations into a single marketing campaign. They never consider the target market’s ability to employ deductive reasoning.

Simpler tends to always be better in marketing. We are, after all, trying to grab the attention of a perpetually distracted public. A simple message will succeed if it’s founded in a rich idea that draws attention into what the brand wants to communicate.

Getting noticed requires luring in a commitment of curiosity. Spoon feeding your intentions just isn’t very interesting, and presenting your message that way only works on those who are actively looking for the information. Keeping it simple but on point gives the market the chance to step into your branded message by choice.

You’d think crafting a simple message would require less work than a complicated one, right?


In fact the opposite is true. Being able to take in the volume of what represents the complete brand of a business, then use the influence of that brand to dictate a simple message requires consciously implementing empathy for both the customer and the business. What emerges — with patience, focus and some luck — is an idea that entices attention rather than trying to force it. Either way, people know when they are being marketed to. Forcing a message diminishes their curiosity rather than encouraging it.

A great way to create curiosity is with copy that supports an image. But the image and copy can’t be saying the same thing. You want one to support the other and vice versa. Together they tell a stronger story than if they were shared individually, and they invite the viewer to participate — by using both components to understand the deeper meaning.

Messaging should never reflect the hard work and effort that was put into developing it. When watching a professional dancer execute a flawless routine that took hundreds of hours in rehearsal and years of training before that, the response is often “Wow, you make that look so easy.”

Simple may not be easy, but it’s the most effective way to deliver a message.

Alex Raffi is a partner and creative director at Imagine Communications.


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