Saturday, January 16, 2010

Three words marketers must sing in 2010 : Serve , Shrink and Simplify

Three Words Marketers Must Sing in 2010: Serve, Shrink & Simplify

In one of my last Ad Age columns for the year, I focus my attention on three critical words marketers need to embrace, repeat, and perhaps even "retweet" in 2010: Serve, Shrink, and Simplify. It's worth a full read, but here are a few excerpts:

Serve: You've heard this from me before, but I'll say it again. Service is the new marketing. Serving trumps selling. If consumers are in control, we can't just sell or wrap ads around them. We need to serve their needs, solve their problems and dial up talk-worthy "brand experiences." And we must do so 24/7, as Twitter-influenced consumers increasingly expect the "service desk" to be on all the time, from the 800-number and brand "chat" line to the Facebook fan page. Serve and you'll touch the nerve. The other good news is that more brands are getting this -- almost intuitively. That's why we're seeing a fire hydrant of service innovation taking place across brand blogs, Twitter and even iPhone apps. Consider the implicit assumption in mega-brand Tide's new iPhone app -- the "Tide Stain Brain" -- which acts as a de facto washing consultant.

Shrink: Our screens are shrinking -- big time. With billions of "app" downloads -- certain to explode further in 2010 -- much of our attention is now fixed (often frenetically) on screens half the size of a playing card. That has big implications. We need to adapt to a smaller interface. We need to rethink design. We need to cut the clutter. We need to obsess on the power of "icons" with the compulsiveness of a Steve Jobs or an airline safety card designer. We need to translate "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" brand websites into two-inch screens. Oh, and this "shrinking" principle also applies to how we tighten and simplify copy. Twitter's 140-character limitation may seem like a climbing Everest to the "diarrhea of the mouth" crowd, but get used to it. Brevity is the soul of wit, my friends. We need to do more with less. Indeed, small is the new big.
Simplify: Of course, we'll never win on either the "serve" or "shrink" principles unless we really simplify things for consumers. Admit it, we love complexity. We hide essential information in illegible fine-print. We're rather give consumers a 200-page "how to" manual than a simple video demo. If you want your iPhone app to sing, you darn well better build it on "add water and stir" simplicity principles. If you want your small-screen ad unit to engage, or your sponsored content to drive participation, you better think hard about stripping out the gobblygook. Just think about the upside. Consider all the micro-charges on our bank or Amex statements because Apple computers made it ridiculously simple to pay for content. Then project that to e-commerce sales, or perhaps even the riddle of how to save online content from Jack-the-"Free"-Ripper." Let there be no doubt -- simplicity sells.