Demand for Clarity

Doc Searls and Hugh McLeod apparently agree that There is No Demand for Messages.

But that’s not really true. There is huge demand for clarity and understanding. And you only get that through messages.

Doc says:

Let’s face it: there are only two kinds of advertising demanded by their consumers: yellow pages and classifieds. It’s not coincidental that they’re both ugly. Beauty isn’t a value when the only purpose is to answer the simple demand for useful information.

This assumes individuals know what they want. Yet, people often don’t know what they want and the yellow pages and classifieds are often incapable of breaking through that disconnect.

Does anyone remember 1994? Where in the yellow pages did you find a good web design firm? (I know, I had to try to tell the phone company which category our firm belonged.) And if you don’t know about the special promotion this weekend at your favorite store, you may never visit the store, even though you definitely would if only you knew about it.

People want to know about unique opportunities. Consider the Thresher phenomenon in the UK, by way of Hugh. 40% off. Limited time only. It was not only a huge sales success, it became a news phenomenon.

Seriously, people wanted that message. And it wasn’t classifieds or yellow pages.

Also, people want to know about their options. We can’t look in the classifieds for something when we we don’t realize there might be something there that fits our needs.

We live in a sea of information from friends and media, from which we pick and choose how we might go about filling our needs. Often it feels like information overload. In order to understand our options, we need clarity. We need to be able to discern how specific offers fit into our world, how they create value, and how we can take advantage of them. Only with that clarity can we actually perceive choices, and only from those choices can we take action.

Here’s an example of a failure to communicate, one that is one of my favorite modern branding catastrophes: Tivo, that lovable little device that has reconnected so many people with their addiction to passive entertainment.

I bought my brother and sister-in-law a Tivo for Christmas last year and they didn’t bother to install it for four months. Four months! They had heard about it. Didn’t get it. Didn’t think it would be worth the hassle. Eventually they got around to it.

And now they love it. TV was always a constructive part of their household, with a pro-active stance regarding what & when to watch and a social practice of watching as a family. Tivo made all of that easier, more fluid, and more accessible. In put them in control of when and how they were going to watch TV and it made their life richer.

But before they had the product working, they had no idea.

They never would’ve gone to the yellow pages or the classifieds. They never would’ve gone to Circuit City to buy it. Unfortunately for Tivo, none of the Tivo’s communications managed to deliver a clear, understandable, and memorable message about the true value of the product. If it had, they would’ve bought one long ago.

So, back to Hugh’s original question:

As traditional, Madison-Avenue-style advertising gets more expensive and less relevant by the day, as the traditional mainstream media advertising business model gets continues to nosedive, where is all the client’s business going to move to, as it seeks out greener pastures?

The business is going to move to conversation agents who help them talk with people clearly and credibly about products and services that meet real needs.

Most companies invest far too much in execution when what they first need to do is figure out strategy. Once you understand what your message needs to convey, and who you want to reach, then and only then can you execute–creative concepts and delivery channels–in a way that reliably delivers the right message to the right people.

As media changes, society and markets change, and the execution tactics necessarily change. But the need for a clear message remains.

How do you create value in my life?

That’s the message people demand.

Firms that help companies converse about creating real value in people’s lives will do just fine serving clients in the post-mass-media, post-Madison-Avenue world.

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2 Responses to Demand for Clarity

  1. Jim Bursch says:

    Hi Joe

    You should check out my post on the same topic here:

    Also, you will notice some changes at MyMindshare, thanks to your feedback. No more flash with attending music on the homepage. I’ve also changed the terminology from ads to bids, which more accurately indicates what is going on, and carries less baggage and negative association.

    MyMindshare is a mechanism by which vendors can start the conversation with potential customers.

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Wave v Particle Model of Messages

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