Branding Like A 2-Year-Old

“I help companies tell more exciting stories about themselves and the people they help.”

That is about as close to the explanation of what I do, created for a 2-year-old, that I can make.

I was thinking about this while looking at a picture of my nephew, who is literally a 2-year-old. He’s a genius in my book. But of course, even he needs some simple explanations some times about how things work in this new world he’s experiencing.

As a parent, a grandfather/grandmother, Uncle, Aunt, friend, etc., surely you’ve tried to explain something complex to a very small child. And in that instance, you know that making things so simple compared to how you’re used to describing them is pretty darn hard, isn’t it?

My college professor once told me over and again, “In Advertising, you never tried so hard to make something so simple.” He was right then and still is.

Whether you work on the client side or the agency side, whether you work in traditional media or online media, try this exercise: Think about explaining what you do to a 2-year-old. Or, if that’s too hard, think about explaining it to these kids in the latest AT&T commercial. Or the role of Aaron Rodgers in the latest State Farm commercial – the poor guy is having a hard time explaining himself to kids in a classroom and he plays football.

It’s a crowd you can’t use industry lingo in. You can’t speak jargon in. They won’t be impressed. They probably won’t even understand it.

Now here’s the crazy part:

It’s not all that different than the audience you’re trying to speak to. 

I’m not trying to be insulting in saying that whatsoever. I’m saying that speaking on our terms rather than trying to relate to their world is a recipe for the attention span wandering quickly.

Some call this Dumbing It Down. Whoa there. Not so fast. We can be clear in our storytelling without losing our sophistication. As I think about my 2-year-old nephew, he’s got a ton of books (yes, these things with actual pages in them, not an iPad) and the ones he chooses to have read to him are the ones that are the most magical to him. The story is captivating and easy to understand. The illustrations are unique. I like to think the tone in which it’s being read is important too.

I can hold his attention for a solid 3-4 minutes, which for that age is amazing. Imagine having that ability with your own audience. Anything over 30 seconds and you’re doing better than most TV spots.

“Are you saying I literally have to say things in their most basic form?”

No. I’m saying to think about how the human mind works. Think about how we make decisions. When we’re making purchases, even of the most complex variety, there is one gigantic motivator that strikes an emotional chord.

You can hide behind bullet points and machine specs and in-depth research that suggests a multitude of positives that should be listed.

Doesn’t matter. There’s just one thing that makes people want to buy. You either hit on it or you don’t. And when you do, it’s about eloquently and powerfully conveying how you have that one thing more so than the other guy.

Anything else that gets in the way of that one thing is a distraction. Which is why it’s so important during strategic planning to strip away all the other jargonistic industry lingo you could be saying and instead envision yourself having a real, honest conversation with that potential buyer.

I have seen respected CEOs have a hard time with this. I have seen those with MBAs and Doctoral degrees have a hard time. And people with 30+ years of experience in their industry. It’s not their fault, really. It’s what can happen when we get so insulated within our own company walls in what’s standard communication (think about how many abbreviations you use that are specific to your business or industry) that we forget there’s a level of Plain English that needs to be spoken in a captivating manner to the world outside.

Your customer may not be a 2-year-old. But you have to communicate company virtues on their turf, around their needs, on their time, in their tone. Not expect them to figure it all out on yours.

It’s that simple. And yet, just that complicated. Need a hand finding that insightful nugget and then explaining why your treasure is important to someone of value? Let me know.

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2 thoughts on “Branding Like A 2-Year-Old

  1. Great post, Dan! I never really thought about it before, but you’re right! Using a different example but getting the same idea is when we do a contest or promotion at my company. The hardest part isn’t executing the idea, it’s writing out all the rules and directions. How simple can we make this to follow? What seems simple to us could be too complicated or time-consuming, especially when it concerns social media. We’re all pretty savvy on it, but some of our customers aren’t. It’s trial and error, but well worth it in the end when the contest is deemed a success by our managers :-)

  2. Thanks Amy. It’s that one little assumption about this or that rule that probably could be a problem later on. When in doubt, spell it out. They’re encountering your contest for the very first time. Or a new concept authored by your company for the very first time, expressed in your next eNewsletter. The goal is not to turn your prospects into PhD’s. It’s to get them to BUY YOUR STUFF. Participation demands emotion and clarity. Not logic and complication.

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