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Do you ever wonder who subscribes to those "quote of the day" sites? Well, I'll tell you: me. I love getting a message in my inbox that gives me a little boost. In fact, it isn't unusual for one to arrive that coincides with a project I'm working on-giving me a spark of inspiration or new insight.

Not too long ago, I received one that came at exactly the right time. Attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, it read, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

I'd heard this statement a number of times before, but it struck me with renewed force. You see, over the last decade, many marketers have lived by the mantra, "More is better."

Take the recent Macy's campaign, for example. A woman asks for a pair of shoes in a size 6 and we as viewers follow the salesman through a warehouse full of Thanksgiving Day balloons, fashion designers, models, Rockettes, confetti cannons, snow and, of course, a host of celebrities, including the ever-vapid Jessica Simpson floating through the air on a balloon. Not only is the entire premise improbable in the extreme (starting with the fact that the average American woman wears a size 8 shoe) it is also so overdone that it actually reduces its impact. In fact, once it leaves the air it will be largely forgotten unless someone digs it up on YouTube as an example of what not to do.

Compare that spot to the Volkswagen ads of the 1960's, widely regarded as some of the most compelling-and unforgettable-ever created. Created by DDB, they were simple in the extreme, usually incorporating a single photo and a message you couldn't help but read. Headlines like "Live below your means," "It makes your house look bigger" and "Think small." One of the most brilliant was titled "Lemon", and then went on to underscore the company's commitment to detail by using a single "blemished" strip on the glove compartment as an example.

by making the communication personal. And, 50 years after they were first created, they are still just as intrigu-ing.

When you evaluate your own marketing, you need to ask yourself whether or not the "more" is getting in the way of the story you're trying to tell. Are the graphics on your print ad so overwrought that the benefit of your product or service is completely missed by the reader? Is your TV spot loaded with gimmicks, but lacking in depth? If you're seeing more flash than feature, more chaos than communication, it's time to simplify.

And-just maybe-it's time to get your own subscription to a quote site. You never know what inspiration it'll bring.

Side Bar:

Four Steps to Simplifying Your Marketing

1. Center on your audience. The way that you will approach consumers is likely to differ greatly from how you will target trade professionals. Trying to capture the attention of both will result in an overwhelming-and unsuccessful-mishmash of information and ideas.

2. Choose a single message. Decide what specific message you want to share in an ad, then stick to it. It may be helpful to make a list of the products, features or benefits that you want to promote to your target market, then rate them in order of importance based on the current season or market conditions. An ad that has been stuffed with every possible factoid about your business is an ad that will be ignored.

3. Cut, then cut again. When preparing the writing for your ad-whether in print, radio or television-you need to get to the point. A helpful hint is to write everything you'd love the ad to say. Then cut it by half. Then cut it by half again (and again, if needed) until you get to the heart of the matter. This doesn't mean you can't use some creativity; it just eliminates the unnecessary information that gets in the way of speaking to your customers.

4. Clear the clutter. Just as the writing can be superfluous, so can graphics be in print copy and sound and/or visuals in audio/video pieces. If your eye doesn't know where to land, or if you are more focused on the music in the background than the message being shared, start deleting. As Volkswagen proved half a century ago, a single photo and clear writing can serve you better than all of the cool graphics in the world.

 Dana Pulis is CEO/founder of Kinetic Marketing Group,


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