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March 11, 2016
Why Nothing Is Harder Than Simple
This world of ours spins faster every day. Relative time, “living time,” is now sliced up into little pieces, and fragmented into shorter and shorter moments, due to a faster pace of life and the mind-boggling rate of the exchange of information. Everything is immediate now; there is no time-lapse in communication. It’s an always-on, 24/7 barrage of streaming information, and let's face it, even when we are off the grid, we have a mobile device at finger’s length. Noise is a communicator’s nightmare.

So, the question becomes, what do we do as communicators to leave an indelible message in a consumers mind in this free-for-all fight for attention?

We embrace “simple.”

We streamline the message so it stands a chance of resonating. We execute the story in a memorable and original way. We have to, in essence, slow down time, through surprising storytelling that makes the audience want to digest our brand essence. But the only way they’ll want to is if they are rewarded for watching. If it’s fun, or interesting, or entertaining in a way that’s relevant to them and the brand.

It’s easier said than done.

Here’s a TV campaign I saw for a Swedish e-commerce payment company called Klarna that takes “simple” and makes it magical.

Why is this so difficult to do? Here are three reasons.

1. Most companies want to put ten pounds of information in a five-pound sack. They make the mistake of throwing as many darts at the consumer as possible to see if one sticks. It’s a hedging strategy.

2. Singular brand stories, if not meticulously executed and conceptually surprising, can be deadly ads. They are very hard to do well. Craftsmanship is key.  Production has to be flawless.

3. It takes a lot of research to distill one relevant core brand idea that resonates with the audience, and someone has to bet on it. Marketing directors are not easily persuaded to embrace risk.

Today, most ads are reduced to product benefit lists that try so hard to convey total superiority that they forget that the audience can no longer concentrate. Consumers care about one thing — what is the brand going to do for ME?!

You see, “simple” is scary.

Simple removes the curtain and pares away the noise, distractions, and fig leaves.

And, as I mentioned earlier, simple is excruciatingly difficult to execute well. To hold someone’s attention and deliver a single idea in a surprising way takes a high level of storytelling talent.

Klarna focused on a simple brand truth and expressed it with delicate wit and charm. It stands for smooth transactions. Period. Nothing more. Which is the single most relevant attribute for their audience and, by the way, speaks volumes about the rest of their abilities without saying as much. They told their story in an ownable way, because it’s original. The word “smooth” is out there in the advertising matrix for anybody to use, but Klarna can own it by defining it as they do in their work.

Yes, simple is hard to do. But the reward makes it worthwhile.

By embracing “simple,” the Klarna brand will be rewarded with many new customers. And the creative team who embraced “simple” so artistically may be handed a Gold Lion in the South of France, in a little town called Cannes.

Where simple is rewarded, because it’s so hard to do.

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Steve Biegel develops transformative ideas through persuasive communications programs to help change consumer behavior, and has done so throughout his career. Steve is a battle-tested thinker with a broad perspective on the industry who can infuse others with creative energy while applying it to the details of the craft. Steve helped hatch some of the most effective campaigns for brands of all sizes and shapes. His ambidextrous approach to creative problem solving through digital, social, and traditional mediums is built on provocative ideation that surprises, informs, and rewards audiences. Steve is co-founder and Creative Director at Scarlet Heifer, a NYC digital communications boutique. Contact him here
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