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I’m not sure why, but it seems like a lot of people tend to make communications and marketing really, really complicated. The reality is that it’s not necessarily complicated – it is complex. Communications requires people to spend a lot more time learning their craft and studying than just jumping in with both feet and going straight to the “concepting” phase. When you hit the concept button before gaining a deep understanding of your project you generally get flashy, superficial and ineffective marketing campaigns.

For the first decade of my career I was baffled by the ready, fire, aim approach most of my colleagues and  our agencies took to developing campaigns. In design school we had been taught a methodology that required us to get a comprehensive understanding of the environment we were designing for before ever putting pencil to sketch paper. I might do some sketching along the way, but almost never designed in a vacuum. Why should my approach to marketing programs, campaigns and communications be any different?

As I became more comfortable in the field and in my role, I began to move away from the concept first approach and started applying the design methodology that works so well in product design. After all, conceptually there is not much difference between a product and a program, just the end result takes a different form. And once I started applying design thinking to the marketing and communications programs I worked on, the basics of it started to sort themselves out.

After about 15 years in the field I had narrowed it down to five simple imperatives to creating an effective marketing/communications program. They are:

  • Simplicity
  • Consistency
  • Relevance
  • Context
  • Reason

Or, to be a little more descriptive:

  • A simple message
  • Delivered consistently
  • That is relevant to your target audience
  • In a context that makes sense
  • Ultimately giving them a reason to choose you

Each one is important and all must be considered in order to be successful.

This may seem like a very simple formula for creating a marketing campaign or positioning a new product, but in reality many companies fall short.

Simple and consistent messaging are the ones that people usually focus on, and often succeed at, while relevance and context often seem to be a big challenge.   In many ways “reason” is absolutely dependent on you getting the first four right. If you deliver a message out of context to your target audience or don’t make it relevant to them, then there is no reason for them to choose you. It’s that simple.

I’m going to try to break down each of these further in separate articles, but remember, if you cannot clearly demonstrate all five of these elements in a campaign, you need to consider making some changes.

After all, it’s only five things you need to concentrate on:

  • Simplicity
  • Consistency
  • Relevance
  • Context
  • Reason