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Simplicity of thought beats complicated self-importance

Interview with Chris Owen, Associate Director of M&C Saatchi PR on the value of simplicity versus complexity.

Simplicity of Thought

Since starting my PR agency life there have been innumerable changes throughout ever evolving sectors, consumer behaviour, and technological (r)evolutions fundamentally changing how, what, and for whom businesses create platforms, products and services.

The one constant amid this is that today, just as it was yesterday and as it has always been, companies are still baffling potential customers and partners with nonsensical verbosity.

There’s a seeming presumption that if you explain what you do simply, then it means the product/service is equally simplistic and has little value; whereas wrapping an explanation up within a jargon-heavy brainteaser brings greater kudos and a higher perceived value.

This is, quite frankly, a nonsense.

On the walls of our M&C Saatchi HQ in central London is a quote which embodies why such gobbledegook is counterintuitive – in foot high letters as you walk in you’ll read “It’s easier to complicate than simplify. Simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay there longer.” It’s a mantra which underpins all our work.

It’s an approach we’re extremely proud of, and one which needs considering throughout a business. Ask your leadership team to replay your current brand narrative and messaging – would it be understandable to anyone outside your offices and marketing department? Or has it been developed so deeply in-house that once unleashed unto the world it will only resonate if explained in person?

If you can’t say, hand on heart, that Joe Public will understand what your business does by reading the ‘About Us’ page on your website, then you’ve fallen at the first hurdle.

Across your business you need to resonate with your audience quickly – especially in the modern era where there are so many competing voices and brands for customers’ attention.

You need to talk in your client’s language – they need to visualise where you fit in, and what gap in their busy lives you’re filling with your product or service. You have to build a picture that they can place themselves within and imagine living inside. If you don’t do this, you might as well go home.

So how do you go about reviewing your narrative and making sure your Marketing Director is not spending your marketing budget promoting a product no-one quite understands? In the first instance, bringing in voices from across your company, partners and other areas of external support can add a fresh pair of eyes to messaging which might have been developed by committee.

Smart A/B testing of all your communications should also be looked at; i.e. what changes can you make to subject lines to make an impact faster and get your message read amid the clutter? What message resonates best with which demographic within your target audiences?

It might sound like yet another item to add to your team’s to-do list, but the investment in clarifying what you do and why you matter to your audiences, will pay off not just in the short term but in the long also, through building proper relationships with customers and partners alike who fully appreciate you, your brand, your products and your role in their lives.

Clarity of purpose is something too few companies still get right first time, but as with much of life, you never get a second chance at a first opinion – don’t let your potential customers’ first impressions of you be “come again?”.

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