Less is more.

Creative Strategist & Partner

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended I watch a documentary on Netflix titled, Minimalism.  In the film, self-proclaimed minimalists Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn travel America speaking about the benefits of living life with less.  To Joshua and Ryan, living with fewer things translates into a more purposeful existence. 

After watching the film, I felt compelled to eliminate clutter in my own life.   I purged clothes I didn’t wear anymore, gave away toys my kids outgrew, and looked at time spent on activities not focused on growth. It’s no surprise that focusing on what matters is an easier task when you eliminate gratuitous stuff. Learning to live with less can be uncomfortable, but it can create more clarity. Likewise, businesses can devise the same precision in their creative marketing by understanding why less can communicate more.

Advertising and marketing agencies pride themselves on crafting clear and simple messaging that entices customers to engage with a brand. For example,  Nike tells us to “Just Do It,” and  Apple asks us to “Think different.” Both campaigns utilize statements that make the consumer feel connected to a particular group of people if they purchase the product, so it’s not shocking that the unforgettable Apple and Nike campaigns are both smashing successes.  On the other hand, not every company has the budget to hire the Wieden+Kennedy or TBWA/Chiat/Day agencies to create award-winning creative slogans to boost sales and grow their audience. 

Small and mid-sized businesses often struggle to produce poignant original material to market their products or services.  Tight budgets force the companies to task artistic staff (often lacking skills and time) to write clever copy or produce poignant designs.  While the strategy saves money, it can lead to serious long-term consequences. 

Employees lacking a creative design or marketing background have a difficult time removing themselves from the brand.  They frequently get caught up in communicating everything possible to ensure they do not miss anything important.  This mindset leads to lengthy copy, excessive design, and complicated messaging that confuses, alienates, and frustrates customers. In addition, the lack of explicit and engaging content can taint the user experience and overall feeling about the brand.  Using “less is more” as a guide can help a company refine its creative content to be meaningful and effective.  Here are two questions to ask when applying the concept:

What matters most?

Focusing on what matters to your audience helps eliminate the clutter created by what you think is essential.  Our judgments and opinions can overpower our ability to pay attention to what matters to others. However, your customers are vital to the success of your business, so their opinion is the priority.  Surveys, courtesy calls, and online reviews are excellent examples of how a company can learn what their customers care about and how they feel about a brand.  After you’ve gathered feedback, you can focus on designing your material to concentrate on what matters. 

How do you want your customer to feel?

A brand should evoke a distinctive feeling for its customers.  For example, many Apple users consider themselves creative or disrupters.  The “Think Different” Apple campaign highlighted this emotion in their commercial that begins with the voice-over stating, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.” While the voice-over continues, the viewer watches footage of diverse and influential historical icons, such as Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Martin Luther King.  Apple wants its customers to feel unique, like the icons, because they use Apple products.  Think about the emotion you want your customers to experience when they think about your brand. Keeping that as your priority, incorporate that sentiment into your creative so your customers feel it.

The “less is more” expression first appeared in a poem by Robert Browning in 1855. The piece, titled Andrea del Sarto, highlights an artist’s struggle to create meaningful art. Browning writes, “Yet do much less, so much less…Well, less is more”.   Whether you are trying to paint a masterpiece, craft a marketing campaign, or live a minimalist lifestyle, it takes discipline to live and work with less.  But, the more you ask meaningful questions that diminishes the distractions, the more you focus on what matters.  Please contact us if you are interested in learning how Tansley can help you focus on less to create more opportunities for your business.

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