The simple, timely message wins — How to Make Your Message Simple and Timely

  • SumoMe

The No-Brainer Solution

I guess after the annual Super Bowl Advertising Debacle — in which advertisers try to show how cool they are by making “in” cultural references and edgy humorous skits that have nothing to do with product benefits — I’m on a clarification and simplification of message kick.

After cleaning up my own messages here and here, I got to thinking about the importance of simple messages. I wrote about it in the 2nd edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. (My presumably left-wing NY editors insisted on taking out the stuff about the Tea Party, but they didn’t have any trouble with the stuff about Obama.). Thought you might be interested in the unexpurgated version if you are in the idea marketing business. And, oh, by the way, believe me, you are in the business of marketing ideas.

Eisenhower once said, Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Secret: To sell an idea, you must find out what people want most, down deeply, under the concrete.

You can’t find it by asking and taking the first answers. You have to probe deeply.. As Henry Ford once said, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, but it would have given him the opportunity to ask a “dumb question,” “Yes, but what would faster horses mean for you?” You have to identify the real desire.

Then, you have to show them how getting it is more important than clinging to and defending some of their most cherished beliefs, such as the idea that the horseless carriage is an infernal machine sent by the devil.

That’s how Obama sold Hope and Change. Those people who were willing to take a chance on him gave him a chance because they so desperately wanted something different, almost anything different. [It was a simple, elegant message, at a time of despair and dissatisfaction.] That message triumphed over a mushy Republican message that I can’t even summarize, and nobody else could either — hence the lack of word of mouth.

That’s why the Tea Party arose soon after, appealing to Independents and Democratic and Republican segments with a simple, brilliant message of “Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less spending.” Everyone got it. You either believed that we were on a disasterous spending binge or you didn’t. The Tea Party refused to get involved in any other issues, leaving that up to the individual candidates to sell locally (simplicity). They will probably win big (They did. This was written in the summer of 2010) because it reflects what people want, in an elegantly simple message. Conventional wisdom is that its popularity was due to “anti-incumbency,” but it’s much more profound than that.

People are willing to change their beliefs when a basic need — in this case their children’s and their own financial security — is threatened and they are presented with a clearly stated solution, and they get the social, word-of-mouth support that is enabled and magnified by the Internet.

Interestingly, one involved a strong central leader, the other the lack of a central leader. For Obama, it was a central person who was unique and spectacularly articulate enough to spark a WOM firestorm over a couple of simple words, “hope and change,”  that summed up people’s frustrations and aspirations.

For the Tea Party Movement, it was also a simple idea, “smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, and the lack of an identified leader that made it possible.

Both tapped into a basic need, and got the word of mouth going in a unique way.

Both illustrate what a simple message at just the right time can do, especially in the Internet Age.

The entire Middle East seems like it’s about to join Yemen and Egypt as the simple American idea — that we seem to keep forgetting — spreads: We don’t want to be told what to do by “rulers.” In other words, liberty and freedom, as rights inherent in individuals, not granted by governments, monarchs or other gangs.

I’m sure you have heard of “flash mobs.” People might decide to show up at a store or an intersection, all at the same time, and swamp all available space. Now, a whole country or even the world can become a flash mob — and they don’t even have to wait for an election.

The lesson for you is the power of the simple, consistent, repeatable, timely message.

My message in the Age of Overload: Ease the decisions. Make your product, service, and ideas a “no-brainer.”

How? Stay tuned. What, you don’t have a subscription? Sign up, free. See, I made it easy.

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1 Comment


  1. Hi George,

    I agree that simple and timely message wins. Try to look at Twitter. It facilitates an endless stream of information at 140 characters per tweet . That means, we need to choose the right words to convey our message effectively. Short, concise and clear message would really have the highest impact.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Judy

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