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People frequently make communications and marketing much more complicated than it needs to be. The reality is that it’s not complicated – it is complex. Effective communication requires people to spend a lot more time learning their craft, and studying, than just jumping straight to the “concepting” phase. When you hit the concept button before gaining a deep understanding of audience, product and project goals you often get flashy, superficial and ineffective brand, marketing and communications campaigns.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and for years I was baffled by the ready, fire, aim approach many of my colleagues and our agencies took to developing campaigns. In design school I had been taught a methodology that required me to gain a holistic understanding of the environment I was designing for before ever putting pencil to sketch paper. While I would continuously sketch ideas during the research phase, I almost never designed in a vacuum. Why should my approach to marketing programs, campaigns and communications be any different?

As I gained experience, I moved away from the concept first approach and started using design thinking methodologies that works so well in product development. Conceptually there is little difference between a hardware product and a marketing program, except the end result takes a different form. Once I started applying design thinking to the brand, marketing, and communications programs I worked on, the basics of my process began to sort themselves out.

After about 15 years I had narrowed the imperatives for effective marketing and communications down to five simple yet effective areas. 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 develop an effective program or campaign.

Though this is a very simple formula for creating a marketing campaign or positioning a new product, in reality many companies find this kind of approach difficult to implement.

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

At some point I’m going 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

What are your thoughts about this idea? Do you have another simple model that has proven effective in your organization? Please leave a comment below and let me know. If you’d like to talk further about how you might be able to apply the 5 Imperatives for Effective Marketing and Communications to your organization please send me an email at ahayden@andrewhayden.com or visit my website, andrewhayden.com, for more information.