Simple, not simplistic

In well-meaning drives for structure, rigour and process we see many organisations struggling with an overburden of complexity. This can be driven by the need to make both Marketing (the department), and marketing (the discipline), more accountable. It can be driven by the logistical undertaking of managing large organisations with interwoven layers of stakeholders. Or it can be driven by a culture of control.

But these drivers can mean that what is simple is confused with what is simplistic, and that "SIMPLE" is not valued or appreciated. And with that, organisations are missing an ability to drive real gains in both marketing capability and marketing performance.

Simple thinking delivers usable marketing processes

The real value of simple comes to bear in the development – and usability – of marketing processes. Designing brand strategy or communications processes with a focus primarily on stakeholder input and risk management typically creates a flow chart with arrows in multiple directions linking together multiple steps, 53 templates, each one with fancy terminology that everyone sort of understands, but which no-one really quite gets, and ultimately, which is unusable. I am currently working with two clients on the brief of 'can you help us simplify this approach which we thought was great, but actually is too complex to follow or use'.

Simple execution delivers powerful marketing results

This thought about the 'power of simple' struck me last weekend, doing the shopping...

Going up to the entrance at Sainsbury's, I was approached by a woman asking if I could do some shopping for her. I thought this was a slightly odd request. But she gave me a printed shopping list, with a number of items highlighted on it.

"We are collecting food for Vauxhall FoodBank. Could you just buy these few things or anything else if you prefer". I looked down the list – on mine tinned veg, long life juice and biscuits were all highlighted. Easy – I knew where they all were.

On the back of the list was information about FoodBank, explaining that it feeds families in need in the local area. As I did my shopping, I added the extra items into my trolley, and on leaving the store, handed over the food I had bought to one of the team of volunteers.

This incredibly simple technique had, by the time I left Sainsbury's, generated 20 trolley loads full of food for families that really needed it.

It was so powerful because:

  1. I could spend exactly as much as I wanted to (and probably wound up 'giving' more than I would have done if approached by a 'chugger')
  2. I could choose which food I wanted to buy – nutritious vs. treat, own label vs. branded - which made me feel as though I was shopping for my own family
  3. Sainsbury's supported it as they clearly benefited from the extra shopping that was done

Complexity is easy to get to – simple really isn't. But it pays off in spades, whether it's a communications process that becomes usable and genuinely helpful in unleashing outstanding marketing thinking, or the simple execution that comes from it, which results in dozens of families getting food to keep them going for a few more days.


For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s marketing capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly on LinkedIn. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Marketing Capability.

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