Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Power of Simplicity in Branding

In branding, less is more. Whether it is a simpler logo, a simpler tagline or a simpler elevator speech, less is more. Copywriting and graphic design are extremely important to brands and brand communication. The simpler the design or message, the more impact it will have and the more memorable it will be.

I have spent a career writing brand plans, brand promises, brand elevator speeches, brand taglines, brand missions, visions and values and brand advertising copy. A real talent is to be able to take something complex and present it simply so that everyone will understand it. I have taken many writing courses in high school, college and elsewhere. The most useful one I ever took taught me this - use an economy of words. The writing exercise I remember most was one in which we wrote a paper after which we were told to cut it in half without losing any meaning - again, again and again until we got the paper down to one paragraph. Our professor said, "Now you have mastered the art of writing well."

Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cicero, Woodrow Wilson and Mark Twain have all been quoted as saying something similar to this - "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." Anyone who has written taglines knows that eloquently capturing a brand's promise in three words or less is no easy task. 

When I worked at Hallmark as a marketing executive, our CEO suggested that if we could not fit our communication on a 3 x 5 sheet of paper, we should rethink our communication. 

One of the best print ads we ever ran at Hallmark featured white space except for a black and white rendering of the Hallmark logo and one very short Hallmark brand positioning statement artfully  related to the magazine's content on the magazine's back cover. It was such a successful ad that dozens of magazines approached Hallmark to run the ad in their magazines. The ad was mostly white space. That is why the brand and its message had such impact.

I have had clients whose businesses were extremely complex with dozens or more subsidiaries in different lines of business. Yet, they wanted brand elevator speeches that tied everything they did together under one brand umbrella while communicating the breadth of their business offerings. Crafting that is also more difficult than it appears. If crafted well, it will seem to be a simple and easy statement to those who read it. Much like a world class figure skater's routine seems much simpler than it is when executed flawlessly and with style.

And to add science to this, research has repeatedly shown that the more complex the message is with more benefit statements, the less the message is remembered. 

So, if you remember one thing in crafting brand communication, it should be "keep it simple."

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