Archives for posts with tag: Simplicity

Have you ever heard the glorious phrase ‘piling Pelion on Ossa’ before? I hadn’t, until this morning, and I have somewhat of an education in classical cultures. Bear with me though, because it’s right on topic.

I was chatting to an old mate – old in terms of mateyness rather than age necessarily – of mine earlier today and he said something was like piling Pelion on Ossa. ‘What on earth does that mean?’ I asked. He told me about an essay he’d written at college and next to the same point he’d made for the third time in the same paragraph his tutor had marked that he was piling Pelion on Ossa.

It turns out that the phrase means introducing further complexity or redundancy to something that is already difficult enough, like putting one of the two Greek mountains Pelion and Ossa on top of the other. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you need to reevaluate your priorities, but you’ll also know that I’m a big fan of keeping it simple and avoiding complexity in our messaging and interactions.

How cool is that!? I encourage you all to wedge this fantastic phrase into everyday conversation this week, and see what kind of a reaction you get.

Blankness and a raising of the eyebrows will be up there I would imagine…

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As marketers we can occasionally be accused of ‘dumbing down’ content or messaging. Dumbing down has a pejorative connotation these days, as though we’re being condescending or patronising to our audience by using words and language they understand. Sort of lowest common denominator stuff.

As craftsmen and craftswomen of words and pictures, our role is not to dumb it down. Our role is to communicate clearly. It’s about simplifying something complex, arcane or esoteric and making it both accessible and memorable. We should strive if at all possible to distil what we want to convey into one key message. Sometimes we only have that one chance to resonate with someone important to us.

This is because we remember some of what we hear, more of what we see, and the most of what we do, hence the need for something direct, engaging and simple. Our less understanding colleagues may feel that we’re ignoring the detail, avoiding industry jargon and acronyms that they can use as crutches, but that doesn’t work with our prospects and customers. They’re invested in something and they want to see some of that detail and erudition come out in the communication, but it’s lost on those we’re seeking to influence who are nowhere near as invested as we are.

Don’t think dumb, think simple. It’s not about ‘how can I oversimplify this’, but ‘how can I simplify it’. Dumb is foolish; simple is smart.

Simple really :-).

When you’re raising your awareness, or trying to get someone’s attention, you have a very small window within which to hit home.

You have to distil your communication into one eye-catching line and / or image. Don’t be tempted to cram too much in, as message complexity is disproportional to message efficacy. Put another way, simple wins.

Let the Comms Rule of One be your master. Then, when you’ve earned their interest, you can start to build out your messages and arguments.

Avoiding complexity is good. No matter how complex your business is, or your life, it pays to strive to avoid complexity. We humans don’t deal well with complexity, which is why a winning approach is to simplify, to reduce, to unify, to distil.

I was reminded of this the other day when travelling. Ireland is a small country, with a few million people. Its infrastructure is correspondingly small, and it’s pretty simple.

I took the train from one side of the country to the other every week for five years. I think it was more than 10 minutes late once or twice in all that time. The coach service is the same. The small number of airports too. The Dublin-based bus service is less reliable, but there are hundreds of buses and tens of services. The complexity thing again.

Then there’s the UK, much bigger, much more populated, and with its hugely complicated rail service and airports. Unreliability is somehow innate. I was flying into Bristol. Did you know that Bristol is the highest airport in the UK? It was built in the second world war for pilots to practice flying and landing in the fog. Well, guess what, it was foggy yesterday, so we tried to land twice and got diverted to Cardiff, in another country.

We then had to take a specially laid on coach to Bristol airport, except that it took us 15 minutes and 3 goes to exit the airport barriers. We drove through the city of Bristol where 75% of the passengers were heading, but didn’t stop as the service was point to point, out-of-the-way airport to out-of-the-way airport. We finally got to our destination 4 hours later than advertised.

Complexity is the problem. When you make things too hard, stuff goes wrong. And who suffers? Your end customer, which means that eventually so will you.