Be more single minded

If you want your marketing message to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be single minded. Here are some create examples of purity in advertising, and why they work so well.

If you’ve every read the book Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, you’ll know about the overcommunicated society. Humans, all over the world, are exposed to countless marketing messages, every single day.

The authors were talking about this problem in 1972. Even then, advertising messages were struggling to hit him. What we have here, they said, is a failure to communicate.

That was 50 years ago.

And 23 years before the internet was a thing.

If there was a failure to communicate back then, think how big the problem is now? No-one really knows how many advertising messages we’re exposed to on a daily basis but it’s a LOT.

3,000? 5,000? Some estimates put the figure at a whopping 10,000 ad exposures a day.

Whatever the figure, we don’t remember them all. We CAN’T remember them all. In fact, probably 99% don’t even register – it’s just noise.

The reality is (and as marketers we have to take a deep breath here) the vast majority of people don’t read your advertising, and of those that do, most couldn’t give a toss what you’ve got to say.

As Howard Gossard once said,

“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”

So how do you make an ad interesting?

Well for starters, you don’t list a bunch of benefits. That’s dull and boring.

You pick one thing. Pick one thing that you want to communicate. It’s got to be something that your audience will care about, something that matters to them. And it’s got to be something that no one else is saying, or you’ve got to say it in a way that no-one does.

Perfect positionings and killer propositions are things we all work towards and there’s no absolute formula for success – but one thing we can all do is focus in on keeping our message as SIMPLE as possible.

In advertising, simple trumps complex every time

Not just in advertising, in politics too. In the 2019 UK General Election, the Labour Party had a lot they wanted to talk to the public about, but it fell on deaf ears. On the other hand, the Tories and their leader, Dominic Cummings, wanted to talk about one thing.

‘Get Brexit Done’. A simple message repeated over and over. In every interview, no matter what was being discussed, this was the one thing that every single Tory candidate said – and usually, multiple times a minute. And they romped home.

A simple message. Repeated over and over.

That’s how you get a message to stick. Keep it simple and repeat.

Lecture over – for now.

Here are some great examples of simple advertising ideas, executed brilliantly.

1. Chupa Chups

An incredibly simple proposition – sugar-free lollipops. Superbly visualised. No need for any explanation. Just a logo and 3 words. Done.

2. VW Beetle

Think small. Developed by Madison Avenue agency DDB in 1959, this campaign totally redefined advertising in the car industry. Simple. honest and quirky. Just like the car.

3. Lego

You can’t help but squint at this. No words. A simple idea. Incredibly engaging.

4. Fisher Price

A great creative idea, which focuses 100% on a single product benefit. Forgetting everything else, else it actively demonstrates the product in a single image AND effectively re-positions the competition as unsafe. Truly great work.

5. The Conservative Party

From 1979, a very simple, single-minded message that help to secure a huge Conservative election victory, and ushered in the reign of Margaret Thatcher.

6. Volvo




7. McDonalds

It really pays to be single minded. Say one thing. If you’ve only got one thing you want to say, its easy to keep it simple. Free wi-fi. Not ‘come on in and have some fries whilst taking advantage of our free wi-fi’.

8. Band-Aid

No copy needed. The idea speaks for itself. They stretch. Simple.

9. Evian

Live young. An incredibly simple thought spawning multiple, excellent iterations.

10. FedEx

It’s as if you delivered it yourself. Simple.

11. Avis

And finally, a classic.

Intelligent positioning that makes the connection between being the underdog and the delivery of better service. Simple, powerful, effective.

So there you have it. 11 examples of brilliant advertising.

And what is it that all have in common?

They are all focused on communicating one idea. One simple message.

When our heads are rammed with information, we generally don’t have the headspace to take on board lots of additional data. That’s only something we’ll do when we’ve become interested in an idea. And to get people interested you’ve got to be imaginative, fresh, different.

I’m paraphrasing Bill Bernbach – but in advertising you’ve got to say something powerful to get people to listen.

And if they’re not listening, you won’t sell anything.