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Move Toward Simplicity

April 22, 2008

Achtung, der Marketingspezialisten!

I’m not sure how many others have picked up on this, but I really think there’s something afoot. The zeitgeist has shifted. There is a palpable and noticeable move towards simplicity, towards manual labor, and away from “high-tech” and complexity.

Just in the last few days, I’ve seen two examples of companies using extremely simple techniques and being extraordinarily effective.

First is Tales of Mere Existence — a very creative storyteller (via YouTube no less) I found through Garr Reynolds’ excellent Presentation Zen blog. Here is an example of his work:

Second is Common Craft, a firm that specializes in creating short educational videos using hand-drawn puppets. They did some work for Redfin, and I thought it was extremely effective for explaining complex concepts.

It’s mere coincidence, I think, that both involve videotaping of hand-drawn simple animations. The idea behind both is the trend: simplicity sells.

There is a move towards simplicity in marketing, people. Maybe this has always been the case, but for the past few years, marketing/advertising has been about engaging the heart, not the mind. We went for emotional appeals (see my own Seven Deadly Sins) over logical explanation.

I think it was the UPS Whiteboard ads that started the trend, but it is now here in full force. Personally, I think this is a welcome development, but man… this is going to make our life more difficult.

Fact is, simplicity is far more difficult to execute than complexity. Because to a huge extent, it’s almost entirely about creativity and clarity. With complex marketing campaigns working on multiple levels, with appeals to imagery, authority, customer testimonials, etc. etc., you can make even mediocre campaigns seem relatively impressive. But when you go with simplicity, you have got to be brilliant, creative and authentic at the same time. They require extraordinary amount of planning.

The examples above are brilliant, creative, and authentic. Although they seem extremely simple, there is little doubt of the planning that went into something like the Redfin video.

Something that occurs to me is that the real estate industry would benefit enormously from having someone (maybe Common Craft) create a video explaining some of the more complex or controversial concepts. For example, a video on why buying in this market might make sense. Maybe something on factors for pricing a home. What about explaining what it is that a full-service agent actually does to deserve his 6% commission? The consumers are still woefully uneducated about real estate transactions, how mortgages work, how home prices are determined, etc. etc.

-rsh

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