Principle 1: Simple Clarity

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

Have you read the Introduction? Did it persuade you to continue on this branding adventure?

Let’s continue with “Principle 1 – Simple Clarity” and dive right into it.

Simple Clarity sounds… simple, doesn’t it? You know what you are doing, so it should be easy to put it into words. If I’m honest, I found this to be quite difficult. Like your elevator pitch, your sales pitch takes a lot of editing and revising before you hit the mark. It’s a process; one that I would consider well worth your time and effort. Here is why: “It makes your brand easier to talk about, easier to remember, and easier to find. The right words make all the difference in the world.” (page 30)

Using the right words, words or language your customers use, creates a connection. You show your customers that you feel their pain, their frustration and understand their problem. Be like Sherlock Holmes, shed light on what your clients search for. How do they respond to your “pitch”? Keep it short, descriptive and make it memorable. Don’t be clever or overthink it. Focus on the most important service or feature of your business or product. If you’re perceived as complicated you’ll lose their interest.

This is due to the way people process information. Miller refers to a book “The Dynamics of Persuasion” by Dr. Richard Perloff, Professor of Communication, and a scholar of persuasion and political communication perceptions and effects, who distinguishes between two modes of information processing:  centrally processed information and  peripherally processed information.

Bear with me to understand why this is relevant for your business. Processing information centrally means people are engaged, they want to go deep and research all angles of a topic. This kind of research takes place after you have narrowed down your options and have a closer look before making your final decision. Processing information peripherally, on the other hand, means taking only a few cues and rules that we trust or that we believe are valid to make our decision. Most of the time this is the way people make a decision in order to, among other reasons, prevent analysis paralysis ( in a nutshell: not being able to make a decision at all).

I believe this makes it quite clear why Simple Clarity is so important in our communication, online or in person. If our customers have to think about what we have to offer, or how we can help them, their brain turns off. Our words fall on deaf ears. They may think, consciously or unconsciously: too complicated, not interested. And we have lost them. If, however, we clearly state in their language what we do, or even better, do for them, then their eyes will light up, and we have created an opportunity for  a conversation that may lead to a business relationship.

And this brings us to the “how” of finding Simple Clarity for our business. Miller came up with three clarity types. Here they are:

1.            Category answers the question: What is your company’s specialty? Using his company as an example, it looked like this: “sales recruiter Toronto”. This category distinction only works if your company is not in a highly competitive industry.

2.            Function answers the question: What does your company do? He uses Cardinal Couriers as an example. Their differentiator in courier services is standard pricing for deliveries before 8:00am. That’s their focus, delivering before anyone is in the office. Their competition, on the other hand, charges a premium for this type of service.

3.            Situation answers the question: Whom does your company serve? It is the most difficult and complex of the three categories. It sets guidelines with whom a company is working, which may not be achievable in a few words. Therefore, this description is most useful for companies which operate in a “well-defined market with educated buyers.” In his example Miller describes one company that uses qualifying questions in their on-boarding process to find out if a prospective client is a fit or not.

Looking at my own business, I’m certainly in the “Function” category. I have to emphasize that my Taekwondo background (yep, I’m proud to say that I’m a third-degree black belt and instructor) is my basis for working with clients when I help them transform a feeling of chaos and overwhelm to a feeling of clarity and focus, from not getting anything done to progress and success. Did I say branding is a work in progress….

Last, but for sure not least, important is the aspect of making your company memorable and easy to talk about. If your (prospective) customers perceive your message as complicated or confusing, you can forget that they will or want to talk about you. They wouldn’t know how. That’s why Miller compares this part with a label. He suggests using 10 words or fewer, 10 words that are descriptive, explain the “content,” and are memorable.

For me the most important aspect of Principle 1 is the feedback from (prospective) customers. I put a lot of thought into the answers about who I am, what I do, and whom I serve, but I wasn’t as diligent about the feedback I got. As Miller says, it looked good on paper, but it didn’t necessarily resonate with my clients. I noticed when I struck a chord, but I didn’t make a note of the specific words that were used. That is something I had to start doing. Miller writes, and I couldn’t agree more now, that “Every time you share your Simple Clarity description it is a learning opportunity. Keep track of your responses. […] The market will tell you when you have Simple Clarity. Listen.” (page 39)

And with that, I’d like to hear what stood out for you in this chapter. Do you have your “Simple Clarity” nailed? Did the questions help you tackle it? What helped you through this process?

Tell me in the comments below.

See you next week,

2 thoughts on “Principle 1: Simple Clarity

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