Consumers want simplicity in marketing

By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial

Being a consumer is complicated. It’s overwhelming. Sometimes, it can be exhausting.

What are you, as a marketer, doing about that? Chances are you’re making it worse.

You spent a lot of time and money figuring out why your stuff is better than everybody else’s stuff, and now you need to communicate it. A world-class product or service is difficult to create. Developing a brand is complicated. You feel compelled to communicate all of it. But the truth of the matter is that if you say too much, no one will listen to any of it.

Attention is a scarce resource for consumers. There are too many messages, too many screens, too many distractions – and not enough time to process complex information.

But if you can figure out how to make the messaging about what you’re selling as simple as possible, you can benefit your customers as well as your company.

In 2012, a massive study of more than 7,000 consumers looked at what makes people most likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly and recommend it to others. The key finding, reported in Harvard Business Review, was that what consumers want from marketers is, in a word, simplicity.

Ideally, your core brand message comes down to a single idea. That single idea is communicated across all of your internal and external communications. Advertising, public relations, collateral assets, and even the messages you use when networking, should all revolve around this central theme

It’s not easy to get to simple. Finding a few words to communicate the brand is much harder than finding a dozen.

Fortunately, there are some great examples of the power of simple out there:

Just do it. This Nike slogan could have been “just walk bike, run, swim, lift weights or shoot hoops.” But you wouldn’t have listened.

It’s everywhere you want to be. This Visa message is powerful, personal and simple.

Like a rock. Chevrolet consistently and clearly communicates dependability with its slogan.

These messages are built to pull the consumer in. Once they’re interested, you have the opportunity to talk about the features and benefits that potential buyers are looking for.

Consumers make snap judgments. They think in a blink. The clearer the message, the easier it is for the consumer to make a decision. If your targeted consumer doesn’t quickly understand what you’re selling and why they should care, you’ve lost them.

One of the most overused excuses for poorly-executed creative is “they’ll figure it out.” In theory, that means they’ll figure it out if they are so intrigued they actually want to figure it out. Most of the time, they’ll just click away to something more interesting.

Great marketing is hard. Maybe we should spend more energy trying to make it easy for consumers to do what you want them to do. Use simple and clear language. Even better, speak in their language. Make the fonts easy to read. Make the website easy to navigate. Use visuals to communicate complex concepts. Make your brand easy to remember.

It’s scary to push everything aside and pin everything on one concept. It feels safer to say a lot, especially when what you’re selling is not at all simple. But simple language and simple concepts can make your product or brand irresistible to consumers.

So, take the time to simplify what you’re selling. After all, that’s exactly what consumers want.



Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at