What You Don’t Say…

Sometimes what you don’t say is more important that what you do say.  In his insightful blog post this week, Seth Godin describes the story of a vegan ice cream store in NYC that couldn’t afford the extra words to post “vegan” on their sign.  It turned out to be a fortuitous accident since the vegan community spread the word on the delicious ice cream for their tribe via word-of-mouth.  Those non-vegan customers who were hungry for ice cream and happened to wander by the shop, weren’t intimidated or turned away by the description “vegan ice cream.”  Not having “vegan” on the exterior sign was a winning strategy to attract both the vegan community and the non-vegan community without alienating either group.

I was thinking about what not to say in a marketing message recently when I heard a sponsorship announcement on e-town, the indie and eco-friendly radio weekly radio show.  My former brand Silk soymilk, ran an annoucement that described the brand in terms of ingredients–including antioxidants and omegas.  Having written these NPR announcements in the past, I know that you can’t say much in a 10-second timeframe.  To communicate the ancillary ingredients in Silk, seemed like the brand managers were really off-strategy.

In days past, Silk has used the tagline: Silk is Soy.  The main benefits of the product and the personality of the brand were always the priorities.  I don’t know about you, but just because Silk has antioxidants and omega-3s in the product formulation is not a compelling reason for me to be a soymilk brand loyalist.  In this case, leaving out the detail would make the main message more powerful. 

My friend, social media expert Erin Blakemore, then tweeted an NPR story that talks about the banking crisis.  It seems the lawyers trying to uncover nefarious activites at Lehman Brothers mined all 34 million emails from Lehman Brothers; searching by very common phrases such as:  can’t believe,  just between us, don’t share, big mistake, dumb, I can’t believe, etc.  In this case what you don’t say could keep you out of jail.

The common denominator in successful marketing communication is to focus on what is:

1. meaningful to your audience

2. on strategy

3. focused–omitting superfulous information

The latest count that I’ve seen is that a consumer sees an average of 3,000 messages every day.  If a target audience member processes and remembers a fraction of those messages, we’re successful in our job as marketers.  Usually our success comes when we use communication that is short and to the point.  Don’t confuse or distract your audience by things that don’t need to be said.

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