A Brilliant Marketing Message Strategy is Simple

Brian Bennett

STIR | President
Apr 9

So simple that very few can do it.

There are many complexities in the marketing world. CMOs need to stay on top of trends and technology, manage a myriad of marketing platforms, juggle internal resources and agencies, and build and execute visionary marketing strategies that integrate them all. But when it comes down to a brilliant marketing message strategy, it’s just so simple.

Simplicity is what makes a message strong and memorable. When a message is clear and easy to grasp, and the positioning is stated powerfully, it allows the marketer to own an idea, even though it may not be based on anything proprietary to the brand.

Make no mistake; “simple messaging” is not easy to do. In fact, “simple,” in this respect – a clear, concise, idea wrapped in a likable identity that represents a highly complex business and creates marketplace disruption – is particularly hard to achieve.

The job of the expert marketer is to decode a complex situation and come up with a simple solution. This is no different than what consultants in so many other categories do. The best of them solve complex problems with straightforward insights and appropriate actions. The more complex the company/brand/category is, the more difficult this level of thinking is to achieve. At the same time, simple messaging is essential to success. When presenting to our clients, the first reaction of most marketers is that this is a tremendous idea that can’t work for them. They believe that their particular situation is too complex for it to work. We face this regularly in the health care, education and tourism industries – virtually all categories. Yet when the client is willing, there is clear and simple/brilliant solution every time.

How to do it

Getting to the simple idea is a process that requires considerable thought, strong instincts, and a little courage.

  • Be customer centric. Focus on the benefit to the consumer rather than features of the product or service. The closer you can get to an emotional need, the better. Don’t work entirely to satisfy internal critics.
  • Search for and find the common denominator that all of your brand’s offerings provide. Since they may be quite different, you’ll need to think in broader terms. Good, simple messaging is often very broad in scope.
  • Resist the temptation of restating stereotypical messages that are obvious and germane to an industry, such as “we care” in the health care industry. Have the courage to lead your industry with fresh statements rather than to try to fit in with traditional messages.
  • Craft your message in a way that it is friendly, confident and in a voice that reflects the best of your internal culture.

You might ask if this is so easy, why don’t more marketers do it? Because the simple thought is easy prey for bureaucrats who think in traditional ways. Rather than seeing the potential in its elegance, they will concentrate on what isn’t said. They would rather be safe than successful. Our response is to describe the point of a spear. It is very narrow and focuses energy, and because of this, it will penetrate deeply. A broad object will disperse energy over a large area and its impact will be minimized. In the same sense, by trying to say everything, you will communicate less.

Below are some examples of this work in action.

This campaign for Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) recently won gold in the higher education category of the Paragon Awards – a national honor. The entire campaign features one headline with just three words: “Turn pro sooner.”

MATC has hundreds of programs that lead students to amazing careers. There is a list of eye-popping statistics on the benefits of a two-year degree from MATC, yet the public often misunderstands the benefits associated with “technical colleges.” But the appeal and the benefit to potential students is one in the same. They can land a great job in the field of their choice and get in and out of college a lot sooner (and usually at a much lower cost) by attending MATC. The message is developed to appeal to the target audience, 16-to-18-year-olds. Its simplicity and the quality of the creative make the messaging disruptive in the marketplace.

The below campaign for the Wisconsin State Fair has been recognized by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) as the “best advertising” campaign in North America for three of the last four years. In this campaign, we featured the ultimate benefit – a fun and unpretentious escape from the humdrum of everyday life. For a full case study, click here.

The Wisconsin State Fair is one of the most successful major expositions in existence. The entertainment is abundant, exceptional and tremendously diverse. Others in the industry promote long lists of attractions and events. Our strategy was to sell the benefit: family fun featuring animals, food, midway entertainment and iconic images. By finding the right voice and featuring the benefit in bold and simple ways that tie to emotion, the Wisconsin State Fair became culturally cool and the place to be. Attendance has grown every year and has set all-time records in the last two years, outperforming the entire industry.

The last word

The positioning of your brand and the image marketing that stems from it is the point of your marketing spear. It should be simple and focused. It will make an impact with the target consumer. Once you have their attention, there are many other opportunities to tell the rest of your brand story.

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