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Marketing: Less is so much more


It seems like everyone’s in marketing these days, and that makes sense. We’re all peddling our wares 24/7 so we might as well use the moniker. The only umbrage I take with it is that many marketing experts couldn’t advertise their way out of a paper bag.

Good for those of us who can, I guess, but I’d like to see if I can make things easier for the novices.

As in any field, there are simply tons of buzz words and jargon to try to pick up and understand. But like most other fields, the buzz words and jargon just muddy the water. Just to get you in the mood, here’s a quick sample:

  • Positioning
  • Organic
  • Branding
  • Buzz
  • Alignment
  • Viral

Those are all great words, and I’m sure that in some situations they can be very helpful in conveying a message, but here’s the thing: marketing is so much simpler than that.

Let’s learn by example.

As you drive around Denver you will see what may be the most perfect marketing piece ever created. Denver Water has a billboard with a man’s hand holding a very small garden hose sprayer. The tag-line: Use less.

If you want a five-second degree in marketing, here it is: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Denver water has written their message “Please Conserve Water,” and taken the words away. No matter how fast you drive past the sign you get it. Maybe not right away, but within seconds that light bulb goes on. You are visualizing the message they want you to get: Use Less Water.

I drive on I-70 every day and see another variant of the sign, a hand turning off a very small spigot. Just past that sign is another billboard, this one for a casino. I guess this casino has some new slot machines called “Pharaoh” or something like that. A picture of the machine is on the left with some text about slot machines; the casino logo is on the right along with some more text about the casino; and in the center is the smallish statement “Tell your Mummy about our new slot machines.”

The problem with this billboard is that you can’t read everything.  The “Tell Your Mummy about our new slot machines” is on the right track, but probably too long. The point of the phrase is to be clever, right?  - And to associate mummies with Pharaoh slot machines - and ultimately to get you to the casino floor.

That’s what the billboard should be: A picture of the slot machine with the word “New,” the Casino logo to identify the owner of the new slot machines, and the catch phrase put as simply as possible: “Tell Your Mummy.”  

That’s it, just: “Tell Your Mummy.” The rest of the phrase, “…about our new slot machines,” a waste of space. Who cares what they ‘tell their mummy’ about? You’re just being funny, not giving real directions.

Here’s some rationale behind these changes: Consumers who care about new slot machines already know where your casino is, you just want them to 1) remember your name and 2) that you have new slot machines. Your actual message is also very simple: 1) Our casino, 2) has new slots, 3) clever short phrase. Everything else has to go.

So there you are. In one mile on westbound I-70 you can learn everything you need to know about marketing. Take a look at your own advertising and try to trim it down a bit. Give your audience credit for knowing how to find you, and for having the intelligence to make leaps to understand what you’re saying. Figure out your message, make it as short as possible, then stop. You’ve finished.

Marketing is brevity. An image is best if you can paint one like Denver Water did, but words will do as long as you remember the billboard and Use Less.


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David Sneed

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss; The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company. As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

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