Simplicity like no other

Admap Magazine
September 2008, Issue 497
Marc Lawn

We are constantly reminded that brands and agencies need to keep evolving to stay ahead of the competition. This nagging anxiety comes from the fact that existing brands can quickly move into new categories, such as Starburst starting with sweets and moving into ice cream, while new brands can seemingly emerge from a couple's spare bedroom or a graduate's garage in a matter of months, such as Facebook.

Faced with these threats, more often than not, brands and agencies alike are looking to make things more complicated. The thinking seems to be that the more complicated a marketing initiative, the more impenetrable it will become to rivals and the greater revenue it will yield.
Furthermore, the temptation is to spread risk across multiple activities in the belief that the more a brand does, the greater the reward. However, doing more doesn't necessarily guarantee a greater return. In fact a blurred vision or approach can actually make things less effective. Many organisations create difficulties for themselves in this way.

In truth, the most effective marketing ideas work best when things are simple. The best schemes align an organisation behind them and perform a clear role within that organisation. Furthermore, the best schemes are clear for consumers to understand, are ones that make life easier for all, and importantly make it easier for consumers to spend.

In addition to making things more complicated, there is often undue focus on developing new products when altering existing products can be more successful. 'Innervention', the art of balancing the desire to innovate new products versus making the best of what you have, deserves greater attention, as there are generally very few really good new ideas out there.
Vauxhall's promotion that ran in the late 1990s where customers could pay 50% at the point of purchase and the rest over two years is a prime example of simple, clear messaging. This promotion resulted in the majority of cars being sold in this way and in turn generated a sales uplift.

The best activity should bring the brand to life, and not be clouded with financial jargon or complicated detail. Mixed messages can prove costly.

Famously in the US, a shopping channel changed the phrase 'call now, our service team are standing by to take your call', to 'if you can't get through at first please keep trying'. This subtle change of language and tone made a huge difference. Calls to the channel increased by 70%. This example just goes to show how straightforward and intelligent language generates results.

When Manchester United Football Club, in the 1990s, started using a variety of colours for its away shirts, the brand suffered a severe downturn, as did the team's away performances. Grey, blue, black and yellow simply did not represent the brand or the club, due to the overwhelmingly positive association of Manchester United and the colour red. The initiative, intended as a money-spinner, backfired and the multi-coloured shirts were later scrapped.

When marketing truly aligns a business and a brand the results can be spectacular. Sony Bravia's acclaimed 'colour like no other' campaigns demonstrate the virtues of simplicity. In an age of time-poor consumers, brands need to cut through the clutter with clear and simple messages.

This year, Walkers has launched its biggest promotion to date, marking its first promotional activity since its successful 'Win an iPod' campaign in 2005. The new Brit Trips on-pack promotion offers consumers the chance to take up one of 14,000 offers on trips to destinations in the UK such as Alton Towers, Madam Tussauds and Butlins.

The digital mechanic requires consumers to register online, where they can enter the on-pack codes and collect points. Amazingly, a total of 32 parties have come together to create the promotion yet, despite the inevitable complexity behind the scenes, to the public the promotion is simple: eat crisps made from great British potatoes and visit great British attractions.

All the public has to do is register online, collect points, choose the reward and redeem the voucher. Lateral thinking has cleverly extended Walkers' use of British potatoes to create a promotional campaign that is simple, effective and one that ties into the brand's over-arching advertising campaign.

The mechanics behind a simple idea may well be complicated, but they should remain out of sight and not be overly disruptive within an organisation.

With reports indicating that growing numbers of UK consumers are using ever-increasing amounts of media at any one time, such as reading a magazine while watching the TV, successful marketing ideas are those that excite, enrich, amuse and shock but, most of all, are ones that are simple.

Marc Lawn is director of retail operations for Dubai World.marclawn@allsearchengines.co.uk

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