Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939
When did marketers start assuming that the way to stand out amidst loud and flashy advertising methods was to be even louder and flashier? We’re faced with increasing evidence, statistics, and research findings indicating that consumers are tired of being bombarded with extraneous information, which distracts rather than assists them in their buying decisions.
According to research done by CEB, the most effective way to reach consumers isn’t through elaborate and complex websites, ads or sales copy, but rather through simplifying the decision making process: in other words, presenting exactly what consumers need to know, while leaving out the rest. In fact, they found that companies who simplified and streamlined the decision making process for their customers were 86% more likely to make a sale.
The key to modern marketing? Simplicity.
Increasingly, marketers are finding that offering more – more copy, more complexity, more information – isn’t working like it once did. With estimates that the average American sees anywhere from 250 to several thousand ads or marketing messages every day, there’s simply no way to keep pace if your strategy is to be ‘bigger and louder’. Instead, brands need to think strategically about how to stand out amidst the clutter.
Apple AAPL +0.08% is my favorite example of simplicity in marketing. Take their Mac versus PC ads: 2 guys just standing and talking, set against a white background. No lengthy list of product features, no mention of price, no professional voice actors with emotional voice-overs, or even information on how to buy a Mac. Each ad aims to make one point, and one point only: one way in which Macs are better than PCs.
Apple’s billboard ads are similar, and about as simple as it gets:
It’s worth noting that Apple’s products adhere to this rule, too. The popularity of Apple’s products is largely due to their simplicity and intuitiveness, making them accessible not only to tech-savvy consumers, but also to kids and seniors.
Another example of a company that definitely scored with the concept of ‘less is more’ is Ivar’s, with their half-second Super Bowl ad from the 2009 Super Bowl. In case you missed it, here it is:
The ad tells you absolutely nothing about the company. It doesn’t tell you that Ivar’s is a chain of seafood restaurants, try to convince you that they have the best prices, or that they have the best food. It’s a low-cost (relatively speaking, considering the cost of a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl is around $4 million), split-second flash of imagery. No marketing message, no features, no benefits. While this ad took the concept of simplicity in marketing to the extreme, it generated massive amounts of buzz for the company – due only to its simplicity.
How Do We Use Simplicity in Our Marketing Campaigns?
We know that web users show an overwhelming preference for scannable, skimmable content. In fact, research shows that only 16% of website visitors read every word on a page; compare this to the 79% of web users who simply scan the page. Many website owners are getting the message, and are doing a good job of making their blog posts scannable by using subheadings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc. But not nearly as many are employing the concept when it comes to their ads, visual content and sales copy.
To streamline and simplify your marketing copy, think about what your customers actually need to know, and get rid of the rest. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What is our most compelling value proposition?
- What are the most significant benefits of our product to consumers?
- What is the minimum amount of information we can provide to our website visitors to help them make a decision?
- How can we present this information in a simple, uncluttered way?
According to Pat Spenner of CEB, the primary goal of your website or ad copy should be to simplify the decision making process for your customers. You can do this in 3 ways:
- Help your customers trust the information you provide:One of the best ways to do this is through providing customer ratings and reviews.
- Help your customers learn about your product: Provide no-nonsense, simplified and streamlined product information that’s relevant to each stage of the buying process.
- Help your customers weigh their options: Be transparent about comparing products and brands so they can make an informed purchase decision.