K.I.S. and Tell: Why Keeping it Simple in Marketing is Crucial to Connect with Your Customers

To really drive the point home, this blog post should be less than 100 characters and take less than 8 seconds to read. Sounds ridiculous, right?! That’s the average attention span of the majority of your marketing audience these days.

Could you be boring or losing your audience with overthought marketing messages, long-winded copy, or complicated calls-to-action? Most consumers won’t engage with your marketing unless they can digest what it is and what they’re supposed to do with it at just a glance.

Let’s look at 3 reasons why keeping it simple is so crucial today

The Goldfish Dilemma

The Goldfish Dilemma sounds like the name of a bad Matt Damon spy movie. Luckily, it’s not. The average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds, which means they’re willing to listen to your marketing campaign longer than most humans. Chances are, though, you aren’t targeting the fishbowl. How does one craft the perfect marketing message?

Let’s take a brief inventory of what makes it perfect. Predominantly, the content needs to matter. The “What” being promoted must be interesting and desirable to the “Who” receiving the promotion. Assuming you’ve determined the “what” and “who” already, next is the “How.” In order to really answer “How” to reach the “Who,” you need to know “Why” and “When” the “Who” will buy the “What.” (I think even the goldfish is confused now…)

No one wants a sales pitch, but we do pay attention to stories. Content marketing can do an excellent job of telling a story without the hard sale, but is it even possible to tell a good story in 8 seconds? Once you fully grasp why and when someone is going to buy your product, you can plan how to get their attention. But, how do you keep it?

Less is More? More or Less.

Joseph McCormack says “Get to the point or pay the price.” Today the majority of people are always online in some capacity, whether connected via smart phone or tied to the internet at work. This “always online” lifestyle has changed the way we buy products and make purchasing decisions primarily because we have been trained to recognize and respond to short messages. Tweets, status updates, and subject lines all have limited space, and we all have limited time, don’t we?

The Harvard Business Review published their findings on what makes consumers likely to follow through on an intended purchase, buy the product repeatedly, and recommend it to others, or as they refer to it: “sticky.” The study examined consistent interaction with a brand, how much a product costs, and the customers’ feelings about a brand. Throughout their study, simplicity had the largest impact on stickiness and was the primary factor in purchasing decisions. The ease of gathering information about a product before deciding whether or not to buy the product is what consumers most desire from marketers today. Not strategic pricing. Not emotional manipulation. Don Draper would not do well in today’s marketing climate.

How do you win more sticky customers? The HBR study found that the best way to measure the stickiness of your marketing efforts is through the “Decision Simplicity Index (D.S.I.).” To put this theory in to action, develop your own decision simplicity index for each brand or product you’re trying to sell. The DSI is comprised of: easy discovery (consumers are able to find the details they need in order to make their purchasing decision and can easily digest it all), trustworthy information, and the customers’ ability to easily weigh their options.

Test your recent marketing campaigns to see how you score. Are you able to understand the message quickly, engage with it, and not only want to take action, but know how to? If you’re not able to accomplish this around the 8 second mark, it might be time to rethink your marketing strategy.

Take a look at two examples. The first example, from Apple, employs their signature style of simplicity, letting their product confidently speak for itself- and it works! Why? Apply the DSI method to the ad to find your answer.


Now, test this next ad for its decision simplicity. How’d it do?


Keeping it simple does make a difference in consumer engagement, but what if you believe your audience does have a longer attention span than the goldfish? They’re special.

Well… let’s take a bigger look at America’s changing attention span.

Strike Two! 

If we’re not careful, “America’s Pastime” will soon be out. Baseball games are getting long. Games are still 9 innings, but over the years they’re are taking longer and longer to win. Not only are games taking longer, but there’s also less excitement and less action taking place. Pitchers are almost expected to perform at a robotic level of perfection. This may sound great if it’s your team in the outfield, but it’s the hits that win games and gets us excited. Where are the hits?

Based on attention span trends, will baseball eventually run its last lap around the diamond and hug home plate before heading in to the dugout of our national memory? Baseball has never been a game for folks with short attention spans and there may not be much they can do to attract the Twitter generation, but the point is- they’re moving further in the wrong direction. Eventually, people may just stop paying attention. 

This generation of listeners needs action with quick and constant stimulation. Whether formatting your marketing message to something that fits in a retweet or simplifying your campaign to one call-to-action – isn’t change worth keeping your audience’s attention?