The more we think about sales, the more we get frustrated by how complicated some people seem determined to take it. We’ve heard pitches that made us wonder what was being sold in the first place, and read product descriptions for children’s toys that made us wonder if we were actually buying space rockets, so complex were their instructions. You see, there’s so much concern about product differentiation, unique selling points and market optimisation that quite often sales types forget they’re selling a real product. To real people.
This is frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, and fairly obviously, all of this makes our eyes glaze over and roll back into our heads in boredom. We’ve actually fallen asleep at our desks a few times reading this stuff. Secondly, and more importantly, it’s frustrating because it completely misses what we hold most dear; simple sells.
Think about it. Fire, the wheel and paper. The pencil, the paperclip and the drawing pin. The barcode and the plug. Simple has always made sense; if the product is good enough, then the only trick is making it understood.
Now you may say that all we’ve got here is a list of great and simple inventions; most products are far too complicated for this. Well we disagree.
Take the iPod – one of the most complex products designed by humanity to date. Then look at why it has been so successful. People get it. They like the sleek interface without too many buttons, and they love the new touchscreen. It’s a simple shape; a rectangle with nice friendly rounded corners. The ads don’t concentrate on its impressive sound quality or storage abilities, just on being fun. And they’re all shot in two colours. A silhouette on a plain background. You can’t get simpler than that.
Okay, but the iPod is a bit of a one off, right? Well no, not really. Take the campaign which really launched Saatchi & Saatchi; their campaign for the Conservative party. This was the first ever ad by a political party, and simply said “Labour isn’t working”. You can’t get much simpler than that, and the Tories won in a landslide. Still not convinced? Well how about UNICEF’s recent fundraising stunt of selling tap water? For one day, each jug of water served in New York’s restaurants carried a small fee, with proceeds going straight to UNICEF. It raised millions, and they’ve rolled it out across the whole USA.
So why oh why do marketing professionals make a virtue of complicating things? Do they think it makes them sound intelligent? Does it make their knowledge seem more esoteric?
Or, are they just not aware of this most fundamental principle, that simple sells?