Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Simplicity itself

As I have mentioned before, I have been working with Professor Rachel Cooper and her merry band as they create Imagination@Lancaster. Being involved in this project has made me think deeply about what makes people creative and what role imagination plays in it. As with most things, there are a number of factors, but the one I want to look at here is simplicity. To me, simplicity is central to the new relationships that are emerging with consumers. Swamping consumers with complicated information might have worked when they were prepared to be passive receivers, but no longer. Hide important facts in a blizzard of statements and someone will find you out. The better course? Great ideas, simply put.

Einstein was right (again). “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.” I love the paradox that comes with Einstein’s statement. It fits perfectly with the way simplicity aligns with one of Lovemarks' main elements – Mystery. I guess that in itself is another paradox, but the fact is that when you tell everybody everything, the mystery leaches away. The great mysteries are, at heart, simplicity itself. The engagement, the fun, the adventure are in their unravelling. Now put this reality together with the fact that consumers are demanding control of relationships in the market. Today’s consumers have a passion to know everything about every aspect of what they choose and use. How it’s designed, how it is presented to them in-store, exactly what it is made from, what experiences it is wrapped in, how they can talk back to manufacturers and retailers, ways they can talk with other consumers and advisors, what its long-term impacts might be, what they do with it once they are done with it. That’s a huge amount of stuff consumers potentially want to know, but I am convinced that we can kill any connection with them stone dead by over-selling and over-telling. Simplicity is the only way to ensure they can contribute and get involved. Complicated ideas confuse and irritate. Simple ideas delight and engage.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, we spend a great deal of time working with our clients to come up with big simple ideas that will delight consumers. Like most everything else, these ideas often start as large unwieldy things that move in ten different directions at once. Using what we know about consumers’ lives and how they live them, we pare our ideas down. It’s a matter of exorcising the bits that have nothing to do with consumers, cutting off the pet ideas, and shaving away anything that deflects an immediate emotional connection. What’s left is a simple idea that has room for other people to bring their own experiences to. That’s when ideas take voice; when other people sing them. It can take a lot of time, it’s often not easy and sometimes it’s not even possible, but when a simple idea takes hold, it is a beautiful sight. Having said all that, let me paraphrase a great writer: I apologise for this post being so long, I simply didn’t have the leisure to make it shorter.