Simplify, well

Simplicity that strengthens

You want to influence a customer to buy, a colleague to act, or a supporter to donate. And so, it seems, does the rest of the world.

Facebook ads. Banner ads. YouTube ads. Sponsored posts. Advertorials. Direct mail. Emails. Sales calls.

Earplugs, please

How do you get people’s attention when they’re so used to tuning out so much noise? And how do you get people to tune in to what you’re saying?

One option is to do what everyone else is doing and hope that sending out your message enough times makes it stick. Send the emails out. Keep the social media accounts active. Buy the digital media plan.

Another is just to turn up the volume. Imagine we renamed this piece:

“THE secret to GUARANTEED business success”


“Create a great brand in minutes!”

This shouting might work, for a while. It might drive some traffic and get us some new contacts.

But it doesn’t respect your audience, or their intelligence. For most organisations, just turning up the volume damages the brand.

Try simplicity

I have a dream.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Just do it.

The most powerful ideas are simple ideas. They win hearts. They change minds. And they inspire action.

Why? Because they cut through the noise and stand out as distinct amid an ocean of similar-sounding and familiar-feeling concepts.

The simple idea cannot help but be noticed.

People’s attention is at a premium. Which is why billions of dollars are spent each year to get it.

In this context, simplicity wins because it gets attention. And attention is the first step on the road to persuasion.

It’s about respect

But doesn’t simplicity just dumb things down?

On the contrary. It respects the audience by valuing their time and attention. It allows them to make an assessment quickly.

We all know what it’s like to receive a call in which the person on the other end refuses to get to the point. Or a rambling email, the message of which could be summarised in a couple of paragraphs.

UX expert Steve Krug aptly makes the point with the title of his book: Don’t make me think. His argument is that when people are navigating websites and apps, they don’t want to have to stop to figure things out.

Or, as the Nobel Prize winning behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman says: “Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it, but they’d prefer not to.”

Forcing people to decipher what you’re trying to say is a sure way to frustrate your audience. And a frustrated audience means lost business.

Much better to do the hard work for them by simplifying what you’re trying to communicate.

Simplifying well

It’s easy to talk about simplicity without really doing anything better. But simplifying well is far from simple.

Einstein said that any fool can make something bigger and more complex. We would add that any fool can simplify badly, failing to capture the essence of an organisation or service.

Simplifying well takes rigorous thought. An understanding of the intended audience. And a feel for what message will resonate with them.

At Sparks, this is what we do. Our business is built around simplifying well so that your business excels. It’s all about finding the core of your brand. Out with the superfluous stuff. No more tangential elements.

But that’s the easy part.

The hard part is weeding out what’s still really important, but not the most important idea. All without the central idea losing its essence.

It’s about discarding a lot of great insights in order to let the most important insight shine.

In other words, simplicity that strengthens.

A Simple

In your use of words and design, simplifying well won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

If you want to be heard through the din, try being clearer, not louder.

Get in touch to find out how simplifying well can strengthen your business.


Michael Gough is a founding director of Sparks, a branding agency for free thinkers and independent minds.

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