Shannon Horgan
Shannon Horgan 28 August 2023

The Secret to Marketing Success? Keep it Simple

For all marketers, it's great when the creative muscles can be flexed, especially if it leads to award-winning content. But when it comes to consistency and agility, 'big ideas' can't be the bread and butter of a campaign. DAC Group's director of client strategy, Shannon Horgan argues that simple is sometimes better...

There’s a reason why Taylor Swift tops the music charts and experimental jazz ensembles don’t. Technically challenging musical genres are appreciated and followed by a niche audience of ‘proper’ musos, but more of us just want a catchy hook and sing-along chorus. Being a critical darling is one thing, having $700 million in the bank is another… 

It’s a similar story with marketing – clever doesn’t always equate to success. The advertisements that won at Cannes Lions were worthwhile and well-deserved, but will consumers remember them ten years down the line? I’m not sure. But when it comes to building brand salience or generating sales, everyone in the UK will definitely remember the comedy meerkats. Simples.

There’s a lot to be said for Simples, actually. Bravery might win awards, but if a complex or high concept strategy doesn’t land with audiences there’s a good chance you’re in for some awkward client conversations. A CMO won’t thank you if they’ve just had to explain to their CFO why a convoluted omnichannel campaign didn’t generate the sales to justify the investment.

It’s understandable that marketers want to flex their creative muscles. It’s one of the reasons why many enter the profession, after all. But it pays to pick your moment. Most of the time, sticking to the basics – and doing them really well – makes the most sense. Especially in a challenging economic climate when consumer purse strings are tight. Here are just a few of the ways keeping it simple can be a ‘win’.

Simple Reduces Risk

Exceptional creative work can deliver outstanding results, but it’s resource-heavy in terms of development and execution. It’s not always realistic or even possible to maintain truly innovative, complex outputs across all channels and touchpoints at all times.

Generating complex creative is also high-risk given the time and financial costs involved – there’s always a chance that a message won’t land with the target audience in the desired way. So it pays to simply deploy strong messaging to the right audience at the right time. To practice simplicity is a valid strategic choice. 

Developing easily accessible content and distributing at a high frequency most of the time reduces risk while giving marketers the space to develop the more innovative and award-winning ideas without betting everything. 

It’s all about maintaining a steady drumbeat of messaging to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds while planning for the next spike in awareness and/or sales that a periodic big campaign can bring. 

Simplicity is the bread and butter that holds everything else together.

Simple Builds in Flexibility 

In a fast-moving market where things can change in a heartbeat, it pays to be agile. Consumer media consumption and spending habits can shift at the drop of a hat, or new technologies or regulations can change the game entirely. In a turbulent market, the key to success is not getting caught on the back foot. 

A straightforward approach allows marketers to be adaptable. It’s far easier to pivot a simple campaign in the face of unforeseen circumstances or an unexpected outcome to effectiveness experiments/incrementality testing. Trying to untangle a convoluted strategy at short notice is liable only to make the issue worse. 

Don’t make life difficult. If you’ve conducted testing that shows a particular channel, creative approach or media mix strategy that resonates with your audience, then why mess with a winning formula?

Simple Means Doing More With Less

From an agency perspective, sometimes client demands can change in ways that haven’t necessarily been accounted for. For example, a specific region or store might find itself in need of additional support – support that may not have been factored into a media plan. This can be due to circumstances changing, or clients being unsure what they need.

Without a bank of evidence to draw on from previous experiments to work out an effective approach, this is understandable. 

Building a ‘simplistic’ approach, in other words an agile strategy, allows agencies to provide an invaluable consultancy role. It opens up opportunities to conduct the experiments required to create a strong framework for effectiveness, though media mix modelling and related approaches. With an agile strategy, it’s easier to try new things and ascertain exactly what works best for a particular client. 

In a world where increasing complexity is very much the norm, it’s easy to assume that following suit is the only way to make progress. But for marketers, it often pays to buck this trend. 

There is nothing to be ashamed of when we keep it simple. After all, how many experimental jazz concerts have you been to recently…?

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