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Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.

by John Furgurson on October 1, 2015

Clarity is the key to many things… Relationships, international relations, politics and parenting would all benefit from more clarity. But let’s stick to the subject at hand; Clarity in branding, advertising and marketing communications in general. Doesn’t matter what form… from a quick tweet or a simple email to an in-depth webinar or long-term TV campaign, you need to be clear about what you’re trying to say.

It’s a war of clarity vs. confusion. Simplification vs. Complication.  Cool persuasion vs. a lot of hot air. Straight talk vs. bullshit. And it starts with your internal communications.

Want to avoid low morale and high turnover? Be clear with your people.

A Gallup Poll on the State of the American Workplace showed that fully 50% of all workers are unclear about what’s expected of them. And that lack of clarity causes enormous frustration. So managers need to set clear goals for the company, the teams, and every individual in every department.

When confusion runs rampant, it costs a bundle. So don’t just whip out that email to your team. Take time to think it through. Edit it. Shorten it. Craft it until it’s perfectly clear. You’ll be amazed how many headaches you can avoid.

Want to stop wasting money on advertising? Be clear about the strategy.

Think of it this way… Effective advertising is a combination of two things:  What to say, and how to say it. The “what to say” part means you need to articulate your strategy very clearly. The “how to say it” part is the job of the copywriter and the art director. They can’t do their job if they’re not clear on the strategy.

Easier said than done. Most business owners are a quite wishy-washy on the subject of advertising strategy. And, unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers can’t spell out the difference between strategy and tactics.

Want to build a brand? Be clear about what it stands for.

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock did a great documentary about product placement in the movie industry called  “Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”  There’s a scene where he’s pitching his movie idea to a team of top executives, and they’re concerned that his spoof is not really right for their brand.

“So what are the words you’d use to describe your brand.” Spurlock asks. “Uhhhhhhhh. That’s a great question…” 41394

No reply. Nothing but a bunch of blank stares and squirming in their seats. Finally, after several awkward minutes, one guy throws out a wild ass guess that sounded like complete corporate mumbo-jumbo.

Take time to write and produce a brand book that spells out exactly what your brand is all about. And what it isn’t! Boil it down to a microscript your people will actually remember, rather than the usual corporate mish-mash mission statement.

Want traction for your startup?  Find a name that’s clear.

Start-ups are hard enough without having to constantly explain your name.”How do you spell that?”  “What’s the name of your business again?” “How do you pronounce that?” “Wait, what?”

Instead, go with a great name like StubHub. It has a nice ring to it. It’s memorable. And it says what it is. Digg is another good example. In that case, the double letters actually work conceptually with the nature of the business – search.

Then there are these internet inspired misses: Eefoof. Cuil. Xlear. Ideeli.  That’s just confusion waiting to happen.

Want advertising that actually drives sales?  Be clear, and overt, about the value proposition.

Not just a description of what you do or sell, but a compelling microscript of the value experience that your target audience can expect. It’s a sharply honed combination of rational and emotional benefits that are  specific to the target audience, and not lost in the execution.

Creativity is the lifeblood of the advertising industry. Don’t get me wrong… I love it, especially in categories where there’s no other differentiation. But sometimes you have to put clarity in front of creativity. So start with the value proposition. Then go to strategy. Then a tight creative brief. And finally, lastly, ads.

Want a presentation that resonates? Be clear and stingy with the slides. Powerpoint is one of the biggest enemies in the war against confusion. The innate human desire to add more slides, more data, more bullet points just sucks the wind out of your ideas and puts the audience in a stupor.  Next time you have a presentation to do, don’t do a presentation. Write a speech.  Memorize it and make ’em look you in the eye, rather than at the screen. If nothing else, they’ll get the message that you’re willing to do something radically daring.



Sorting through the endless “marketing opportunities.”

September 11, 2015

The marketing landscape isn’t really a landscape anymore. It’s more like a fast moving landslide, snapping trees and engulfing unsuspecting business owners up to their ears in muck. Most clients I know are trying to wear so many different hats, they can’t begin to sort out all the “marketing opportunities,” much less make sound strategic decisions regarding […]

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Working together for more effective advertising.

June 7, 2015

Planning, creating, producing and managing a great ad campaign is not easy. There are details galore, many moving pieces, and an interesting array of individuals who all need to come together to make it happen. When it does, it’s really quite magical. It’s a rare marriage of art and salesmanship that produces spectacular results. So […]

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How to create a website that works for your brand.

March 27, 2015
A concept from the Mini USA  website homepage.

For some reason, many people think that “branded” websites won’t sell product or produce a steady stream of leads. And on the other hand, they don’t think “Ecommerce sites” will help their branding efforts. As if the two are mutually exclusive. Well, here’s the good news: You really can have a website that performs well AND […]

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“Brand” Trumps Managerial Incompetence.

February 19, 2015

I need to stop being surprised by managerial incompetence. Honestly. I need to reframe my expectations and just be pleasantly surprised when I encounter an exception to the rule. Because everywhere I turn, knumbskulls, nuckleheads and nitwits rule the managerial world. Witness the retail store owner who has no handle on her inventory issues or labor […]

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Information is killing your advertising.

February 6, 2015

Contrary to popular belief, information is is the enemy of persuasion. Not the friend. Most people think they can convince, sell or persuade by piling on facts and stats. Well, it might make you feel smart, but it’s not going to produce results. In fact, the more info you stuff into an ad, the less you’ll […]

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Making websites work — on many levels.

December 19, 2014

It’s been very interesting to witness the progression of web design over the last 20 years. Trends come and go at a fashion-runway pace. Technology changes even faster than that, and the graphic style is continually evolving. Regardless of the latest trends or technological bells and whistles, there are some timeless facts about this communication […]

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