When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt

Monday, September 29, 2014 | 9am

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Sadly I can’t claim those words of wisdom as my own. They belong to Henry J. Kaiser, the US industrialist widely acknowledged as the father of American shipbuilding.

When I started to scribble notes for the theme of this blog, my own words nodded a little more towards the vernacular: “Don’t **** with the message”. Kaiser articulated it with a little more finesse.

Give words a chance (you see, I also had a “c” word). What I mean is, when you have a great and focussed message about your brand, stick to it. Single-mindedly.

Don’t add worthless padding simply because somebody got carried away. Or, what is more often the case in marketing, because you have several stakeholders to please, all of whom want to add their own special something to your carefully crafted piece of content.

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The term “single-minded proposition” wasn’t dreamt up just because it’s a nifty little catchphrase. As with all (good) marketing, there’s a shed load of common sense behind it. If your message is single-minded, then it’s focussed. It doesn’t get lost in a clutter of ideas that your prospective customer has to work hard to prioritise, order or even make sense of. Nor does it get watered down in a sea of messages that all have equal billing when vying for your attention. That’s just confusing.

When thousands of messages come at us every day from every direction and every medium, it’s understandably tempting, once you’ve achieved the prized goal of attracting someone’s attention through the noise, to tell them everything there is to know about your brand there and then. After all, this might be your one and only chance!

But don’t. Stay calm. Stay focussed.

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Trust me, your customer won’t spend time working out which of your many product features really works for them (there is a time for that). At best you’ll confuse them; at worst you’ll annoy them – and they’ll walk.

Deciding what not to say is often harder than finding something to say in the first place. You might have to be brutal in your editing. But think about it. Any of the stories that leave a lasting impression, or that we love, do so because they are beautifully simple, beautifully crafted and are single-minded in their message.

What if, in every Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman joke, there was also a Dane (who had no part to play)? Or if, when Harry met Sally, he was also dating Sarah…?

Say one thing and say it really well.

When Volvo launched their new FM truck they could doubtless have listed any number of benefits that made it a good choice for the fleet buyers. But not only did they confidently stick to just one, they came up with a stunning, unforgettable way of demonstrating it that lingers in the consciousness and defies its audience not to share it. Henry J. Kaiser would agree,it’s hard to think of a better example of not interrupting work that speaks for itself…

 

OK, we haven’t all got Hollywood budgets, but with a great, simple and highly focussed idea and you can achieve great things. Remember Dollar Shave Club? It’s funny, it’s irreverent, it tells a good story, it’s ridiculously single-minded and the video is still being enjoyed after 2 years and 16 million views.

So don’t complicate things. Have the confidence to say to colleagues, stakeholders or clients “yes, we could add that, but it will take away from the story’s impact”.

For every time we manage this, we achieve relevance. We give life to the message. A message that’s able to resonate, create impact, inspire action and leave a lasting impression.

And isn’t that what every client wants at the outset of every story?

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