Plain Speak

Frank Striefler and Erik Hanson (TBWA\Media Arts Lab)
  • 18 march 2009

Life today can be complicated. The accelerating pace of innovation, ideas and technology, and the pressure to keep up with it all in real time can make just getting by quite an effort. So, people don’t have the time or attention to go out of their way to understand things that are confusing. In fact, the more complicated something is, the greater the need for simpler ways of understanding it. Most people don’t want to have to master a new vocabulary or be able to speak like an expert—they just want to be talked to like they talk: in simple, down-to-earth language. And nowhere is this truer than for marketers—people obviously need to understand your brand before they’ll consider it. If it’s hard to understand, it’s easy to forget (and impossible to pass along). So, if you have something important to say, then simplicity is the language of least resistance.

Brands not only need a clear purpose in culture but also a clear way to express it. Using simplicity to tell your brand stories is now an imperative, and one that can actually cut through the clutter.  A very straightforward approach — no jargon or unnecessarily complex language — may seem less glamorous and dramatic, but a down-to-earth approach is often the best. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean keeping it short. It means delivering the benefits in the clearest and most compelling way possible.

Twitter in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

Common Craft “Plain English”
Common Craft creates short explanatory videos to make complex ideas easier to understand. The result is a unique, clear and simple video in a format known as “Paperworks.” Twitter hired Common Craft to help explain its social networking and micro-blogging service in “Plain English.”  The 2.5-minute video walks viewers through the process of setting up a Twitter account, how to use it, and the benefits gained from joining. It clears up potential pre-existing confusions by deconstructing any complexity and reveals how simple Twitter really is.

Help Remedies

The last thing people want to do when they have an ailment is to try and figure out which remedy is right for the job. Help Remedies takes out the confusion created by the plethora of pain relief packaging with its first two products, acetaminophen and bandages. Each remedy is simply packaged with just the words “Help, I have a headache” or “Help, I’ve cut myself” printed respectively across the front, making solving simple health issues as easy as it should be.

UPS Whiteboard

In order to clear up the confusion about shipping and to communicate its complex products, services and solutions, UPS opted to create a step-by-step campaign that clearly illustrates how its multitudes of operations work. The “Whiteboard Campaign” gives a one-on-one personal explanation with the help of simple drawings. Each of the 12 TV spots is not only effective because of the intriguingly basic illustrations, but also due to its ability to effectively explain to viewers how the various business solutions work.

– This newsletter was first published in May 2008. Media Arts Mondays is produced by Media Arts Lab. You can subscribe to Media Arts Mondays here or download this newsletter here.

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