The Bravery of Brevity
During the Covid lockdown months of 2020 I found myself taking part in impromptu conversational games with a common theme: The call for decisiveness in an imagined scenario we longed to enjoy when the “old normal” was restored. “It’s your first visit to the pub in over a year but you can only have one drink, what is it ?” “Travel corridors reopen tomorrow, what’s the one place you choose to fly to?”. “Social mixing is allowed again, who are the first people you have over for dinner?”. The limitation of choice focusses the mind and the heart.
Yet during the same period I also noticed seriously indecisive habits creeping into our everyday working lives. Surrounded by insecurity, both physical and fiscal, it was easy to lapse into complication and scatter gun thinking as we did everything we could to keep clients supposedly happy. Anxiety saps confidence and breeds vagueness.
Helping brands chart a successful future in a turbulent world, now demands bravery, brevity and decisiveness like never before. So how do we avoid the urge to share three creative ideas when there’s just one we really believe in? How do we arrive at a simple strategic point of view when we feel we need to pay lip service to the acres of data we’ve been given? And how do we have the bravery to be honest when faced with unclear thinking from colleagues, clients or collaborators?
I’ve recently been reading Richard Reed’s brilliant book If I could tell you just one thing. (Encounters with remarkable people and their most valuable advice). The Dali Lama, Bill Clinton, Dame Judy Dench, Nitin Sawhney, Jude Law and Andy Murray to name but a few, all offer deep insight, bags of intuitive intelligence and philosophical counsel. And despite the book’s title amounting to a seriously leading question, there’s a remarkably persistent theme throughout: stay focussed, persist, be unflinchingly single minded. Not one of Reed’s interviewees says, “learn to multi-task” or “strive to become a Polymath”.
Reed’s book comes from the mind of an advertising planner, his career before creating Innocent Drinks. He is a kindred spirit trained to think in Single Minded Propositions and USPs. As Planners it’s our duty to capture an entire brand on a page, distil its proposition or a core creative thought into a single line, or further still, arrive at just a few words that can be expressed visually. The challenge is to be succinct without being reductive. And pictures also have their own compressed language. Iconic brands are defined by elementary colours and shapes. Simple, meaningful and recognisable at a glance, whether on a billboard or as a simplified packaging design on an e-tail site. The brilliantly effective TV ad compresses a narrative into a mere 30 or 40 seconds.
At bluemarlin, our entire process is geared towards the sharp, the pointy and the condensed, where divergent thinking ultimately converges and ruthlessly arrives at a “brand point of view.” Creative exploration that concludes with a recommendation. It’s what we’re paid for. This takes skill, bravery and time. As the American novelist Mark Twain said: “sorry for the long letter, if I’d had more time I would have written a shorter one”. Long winded is, ironically, the quick and lazy approach.
I’m not suggesting agonising for months over brand fundamentals, but I am an evangelist for investing the right amount of time to get your positioning, purpose, promise or big idea succinctly “nailed”. Not forgetting your “bullseye” target audience. This will actually save time and money when you have to react tactically, at speed, in a constantly changing business landscape. A great marketeer once said that a great brand was “an antidote to anxiety”, there surely can be nothing more reassuring, comforting or uplifting than one that is confidently single-mindedness, without being bullish. It’s this decisiveness that enables it to live in the hand heart and mind.
Over the last year we’ve been going through the act of creative compression with our own brand. Now it’s expressed in four words: The Brand Acceleration Agency, qualified by three more: Depth, Adrenaline and Growth. It took a little time and a lot of debate to arrive there. But perhaps more challenging was the showing not the telling, with a showreel that could capture the multi-channel, multi-sector, multi-continent experience of 26 years. We’ve got it down to 2 minutes, 24 seconds and you’ll find it on our new website.