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Think Small

The goal for any message you’re putting forth in this oversaturated, overstimulated, and focus-challenged world of potential clients, friends, and followers whose attention to your content will determine your success or failure is far simpler than the overly complex string of words I’ve used to get your attention here. The goal for each of these messages is a call to action. It’s not a request for a lifelong commitment. It’s not a plea for a promise of purchase. It’s a call for one single action to be taken. And if it is able to get an individual to take just one more action in today’s overly demanding world, it’s a success.

Recently, my company was putting together a banner for a client who is a force of nature. I haven’t met another woman like her in years. I wish I’d met her earlier in my career, as she could have changed my journey for the better. Anyway, the banner we designed contained a logo, a simple tagline with her organization’s goal, and — at the bottom — a call to action: the website and social media handle. The color of the banner is striking, as is the website, which itself is getting kudos in an industry in which most are overly “busy” in their messaging.

Her response to the banner design was blunt: “I find it a little bare.”

A simple response to a simple banner.

Flashback ...

Thirty-or-so years ago, I was flipping through an old Life magazine when I came across a Volkswagen ad. “Think small,” it read. I stared at it. It was unlike anything I’d seen, and it had me at hello. I ripped it out, framed it, and hung it in my office, where it would remain for years to come.

Doyle Dane Bernbach created the ad campaign in 1959. It was ranked by many as the best campaign of the 20th century. Learning this made me feel very smart indeed, because the first time I’d encountered it, I’d known something about it was right for me in so many ways.

At Blue Shoe, the amazing team I work with follow that Volkswagen campaign’s directive to this day. Our version? “Sometimes more is just more; it’s not better.” I don’t think we have a long-term client who hasn’t heard me say it. OK, maybe John Campanelli from InProduction hasn’t heard it because he never lets us do anything that isn’t simple, with a clear, measurable goal. But everyone else? It stops them cold.

Our goal is always to start a relationship with whomever is looking at the content we create. Start the relationship, not consummate the deal.

Regarding the banner I mentioned previously, the goal for focusing on the tagline (which consists of the client’s own words — a close-to-perfect assessment of the organization’s objective) was to get the banner noticed in a sea of other banners at the entrance to a popular event, to get attendees to see it, read it, and want to know more. I’ve looked at some of the other banners at this event, and they are filled with information I believe no one will really see. People would have to stop, read the messages, decipher them, and then absorb their content, which no one has time to do upon entering the busy room.

In a sea of text-heavy and image-packed ads in Life magazine, “Think Small” stood out. It was likeable. Clear. Engaging and endearing. And it pointed out the obvious: The Volkswagen Beetle is a small car, smaller (at the time) than all the others, and that’s a good thing.

Think small.

One message.

Simple is the new black.

--Christine Merser, Managing Partner, Blue Shoe Strategy


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