About a month or so ago, my dad recommended that I watch Minimalism a documentary on Netflix. If you’ve seen it, you probably felt as uncomfortable as I did seeing Joshua’s home. There’s something about having a lot of ’stuff’ in a house that makes it feel more like ‘you’ or make you feel secure. I tried to move past this discomfort and picture myself living in that house. I was surprised to feel a sense of freedom. Not only was his life less complicated, his life gained more meaning. For example, when you see a guitar in his house, you know that it is a part of his life in a real and authentic way.
We crave simplicity but we also have this desire for complexity. We feel that complexity gives us greater power, flexibility, and security. It reminds me of thinking about my life without a microwave. I literally only use it to re-heat food on less than a weekly basis, so what’s the point of giving this large item 1/3 of my counter space?
Simplicity is something we aspire to in marketing, but usually our desire for the safety of complexity keeps us from achieving it. Let's get past what makes us feel good in the moment and recognize the ways that simplicity will benefit your marketing and brand where it matters.
When I’m nervous I get verbal diarrhea. Because I want everyone to like me I'll say everything and anything that comes to mind to try to achieve that. So it's understandable why so many businesses do that same thing. We want to tell our audience everything that could possibly make them consider us to the point that now we create a desperate brand persona. When you try to please everyone by saying everything, you lose what makes you interesting, and you start to look needy. When you claim simply what you have to offer, it shows confidence. People are attracted to that. Authentic confidence also inspires your audience's trust.
What it looks like:
Leave a little mystery when doing one pagers. Keep your copy high level and simple and don't overwhelm the reader with all the details. The aim is to interest your audience enough for them to take action to know more. Be sexy, not slutty.
Simplicity lets your audience understand what you have to say quickly. So quickly, it feels easy and intuitive. The faster you are able to get your message across to a distracted viewer the better. The more you say or the more you stimulate the eye, you are creating more 'noise' for the brain to have to interpret. We've become so used to being bombarded stimulus that our brains start to skim/skip over information to be more efficient. With detailed and complex copy and design, most viewers will at best skim or more likely skip over your message.
What it looks like:
For billboards/web banners remember that you have nano seconds to get people to notice/read your material. The web banners that perform best are very simple in copy and visuals.
There is something very striking about a simple design. I used to do a test when I was younger. I would flip quickly through a magazine, to see which ads ‘stood out. Every single ad that caught my eye was very very simple. Leaving white space, and being concise creates emphasis. Just like Joshua's apartment, anything that was there was memorable and meaningful. This translates into a piece with great impact.
What it looks like:
A successful presentation slide is memorable. Emphasize your key points by letting it stand alone. Talk about the details, don't put them all on the slide.
Being simple isn't so simple.
The funny thing about simplicity is that it's actually not that simple to minimize. It's also not realistic to simplify everything without a lot of consensus, and when you are a large organization with multiple opinions and inputs this process takes a lot of time and energy. But there are a lot of small ways you can start to practice simplicity that will provide noticeable impact in your company's brand and marketing efforts.
It takes balls to strip away all the extra words and ornaments and just be vulnerable, with the core of who you really are, of who your company really wants to be. Be brave. Be bold. You are more with less.