One of the biggest challenges that I have when working with clients is to keep disciplining them (and myself) to keep things simple. We are always so tempted to impress, tripping over ourselves to ensure that our potential clients perceive us to be authoritative, credible and subject matter experts – to our own detriment, as we end up hiding the simple, explicit message of our true expertise under verbosity and unnecessary cleverness. We lose sight of our target and our goals.
We’ve recently been treated to the Australian TV series “Rake” about a well-meaning, but hopelessly ill-fated criminal lawyer. One of the episodes is about a retired English school teacher who laments the abuse and loss of meaning in the English language in modern times. Defending the teacher on serious charges, Cleaver Greene (our ill-fated criminal lawyer), refers to recent (real-life) incidents where meaning has been sacrificed for novelty:
- In a report on interrogation activities at Abu Ghraib, the CIA referred to a “diminished verbal response capability”. When asked for clarification on what this term meant, the answer was: a whimper!
- The Pentagon described a plane crash as an “unintentional flight into the ground”! Duh!
We may laugh, but these are sad and extreme examples of how we use language to spin what is actually a very simple, clear concept. Why would we want to blow smoke up our clients’ sit-upons? Actually, on this matter (the blowing of smoke), you may start to think that I watch an ENORMOUS amount of TV, but I happened to catch an episode of QI in passing and they were talking about a medically-accepted Victorian cure for drowning: literally, blowing smoke up the bottom of a person who had drowned! Apparently, there was sufficient empirical evidence to prove that this cured drowning!
But back to the subject at hand: when crafting our marketing message, when identifying our niche, it is essential that we keep the language and message clear and simple. As Winston Churchill said:
“Tell them what you want to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you have told them.”