Keep It Simple, Stupid

October 26, 2017

 “If you can’t explain it simply,

you don’t understand it well enough.”

Albert Einstein

I’ve always championed the importance of keeping content simple but it was brought to my attention again recently while out with my 6-year-old. At an event we were visiting there was a stall selling chocolate creations of all different kinds and I picked up a bag of chocolate coated honeycomb.

I asked her if she’d like to buy it, because she likes honeycomb. She looked at me and asked; “What’s honeycomb?” It occurred to me that while she’d had honeycomb before and I knew she liked it, I’d probably never told her what it was. So I racked my brains to think how on earth I could describe it to her. “It’s like a Cadbury’s crunchie bar,” I said. She got it instantly; “Oh yes I like that,” she replied. But the horror on the faces of the two people behind the stall couldn’t have been more apparent.

“It’s better than a crunchie!” the lady retorted. So I carefully explained to her that while that might be the case (who am I to judge?!) I had to explain what it was to a six year-old, who had zero concept of what honeycomb was. Plus, it got her the sale.

All of this got me thinking that in the world of marketing, and content marketing especially, people get their knickers in a twist about making their content sound so pretentious because they think it’s going to make a remarkable difference. But, in fact, studies show that when you keep things simple your customers are loyal and more likely to make a purchase or repeated purchase.

Restaurant Reservations

I liken all of this to the awful dilemma we’ve all come across at some point in our lives. You’re in a restaurant and you don’t understand a lot of what’s written on the menu. Do you suffer the embarrassment of asking the waiter or waitress to explain it to you, do you just order the one item that you do understand instead of choosing something that you actually wanted or do you leave before ordering anything?

This is the dilemma you’re placing before your clients or customers if you choose to make your messaging and content more complex than it needs to be. And it brings us back to the horrified lady at the chocolate stall – where’s the shame in saying that your product is like another, but slightly different? Or that actually what you do is simple? Simple can be life changing!

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Steve Jobs

Crew places emphasis on the beauty of simplicity in this article, and says that all you need to do is be ‘Same same but different’. Why? Because it eases people’s minds, you’re familiar enough for people to choose you while offering just that slightly different edge that sets you apart.

Take a look at the rise and popularity of brands like giffgaff. What it offers is phones, SIM cards and tariffs – the same as plenty of other companies. BUT, you’re free to come and go as you please with no horrid contract locking you in for eternity.

And how about their messaging? Do they get themselves all worked up about the fact that they’re not just any mobile phone company and stick you with some complicated waffly tagline that makes them sound cool and edgy? Of course they don’t!

“No contract means you’re free to go, free to stay. That’s why we work our socks off to keep you.”

So, what are you afraid of?

Cast your minds back to those arduous years of studying for GCSEs, A-Levels, University. How did you cope with the mountain of revision? How did you store all those complex concepts, equations, languages, experiments? What did you do to make it more memorable? I’d put a hefty bet on (ok, not that hefty…) that you simplified it. You came up with acronyms that helped you remember, you broke it all down into memorable chunks to make it easier to recall.

Consumer psychology website Beyond the Purchase advocates the power of keeping content simple and how most consumer’s needs are simple. So why, when it comes to branding and content, is it still such a scary prospect for so many brands? What will people do if they realise that you’re actually just a brand that makes and sells soup and not some hand-crafting, home-brewing artisans?! They’re probably going to love you for it, actually.

This Catalyst article says that “Branding your service as simple, even if it’s not, is the best way to get ahead in complex industries.” The article is well worth a read, and estimates that brands could be missing out on £65 billion of business because they’re not simplifying.

And if you haven’t already, check out the Global Brand Simplicity Index – YES! That’s right, because it’s recognised that simple is better when it comes to helping you attract and retain your customers – in fact 64% of consumers said that they’re willing to pay more for a simpler experience.

What’s the take away from all this? Extend simplicity into your content and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. It doesn’t mean that you’ll lose all your messaging, simple can be smart. But more than that, simple means that you’re willing to go the extra mile to help your customers understand and, as we’ve just seen, they’re willing to pay a premium for that.

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