Former president Richard Nixon was famously quoted (and oft imitated) for his phrase “Let me make one thing perfectly clear…” Not that transparency was actually part of his administration, but at least he knew the public wants things to be clear.
Clarity is an essential part of effective communications and flat-out critical when it comes to marketing communications. We view Clarity as one of the Six Essential Values of Powerful Marketing (Uniqueness, Simplicity, Clarity, Surprise, Story and Experience.) Yet, so many ads, commercials, sales brochures, websites and trade show booths fail to be perfectly clear, leaving the audience to only guess at what the marketer was trying to say.
Consider these gibberish taglines from some of America’s top marketers:
- American Eagle Outfitters: Live your life
- Hilton: Travel should take you places
- H&R Block: You got people
- JCPenney: Every Day Matters
Sprint, especially, has done a fantastic job of message obfuscation with their “Frobinson Family” campaign. Again, Huh? Can anyone please tell me what the point of these inane commercials is? That goes for many other commercials by big names selling small ideas, most often in fashion, fragrances and alcohol.
And just read any business publication and you’ll see ads with copy like “We strive to procure VPN-enabled solutions for today’s leading eBusinesses.” And “Dedicated data implementations for today’s market-focused virtual companies.” One more time, Huh? These could have just as easily been created by a random phrase generator and been better understood.
Reading the funeral trade magazines, I see too many ads that are no better, that I would have exert serious mental effort before I could understand precisely what they have to sell and why I should care.
Billboards and trade shows booths are also great places to see practitioners of obscurity at their best. In the case of billboards, driving at 60 miles per hour, the audience simply doesn’t have time to read tiny type next to big photos (see the example), or make sense of a too-clever headline one has to think about to “get.”
And at trade shows, with all the crowds, noise and visual overload, too many booths bury their key story amid an army of bullet points and oversize logos. Attendees don’t even take the time to scratch their heads and wonder what these exhibitors do, make or sell as they move past.
So this is a plead for clarity, for putting the key selling proposition front and center, no matter how it gets dressed up. An old saw of advertising puts it succinctly: “Think it out square, then say it with flair.” Which is to say, make sure that the selling message is understandable, meaningful and motivating before you start on any creative executions, and then be sure, once the creative work is done, that the message still drives through.
I hope I’ve made this one point perfectly clear.
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.