How to make complicated points in a simple way

1 minute read

Samsung’s latest phone is one of the most complex pieces of handheld technology ever created, but they sell it with the line: ‘Take photos in the dark’. Here’s why (and how).

It’s not uncommon for marketing directors to receive pressure from their boards and sales teams to overload their messaging with information. But the smart move is to hold firm, say less and keep it simple – let’s get into it.

There’s a LOT of complex information out there. From geospatial technology to legal terminology and from academic papers to economic briefings, the world is confusing. But the marketing copy that your company uses shouldn’t be. Why? Because – spoiler alert – your audience is human.

That’s not to say it’s necessarily easy to achieve; there’s an immense skill involved in translating complex messages into simple narratives.

Take journalists for instance. Their role is to gather information from disparate sources and distil it into a narrative that readers can understand. Even the highest of high-brow news publications such as the Financial Times are written in a way that makes them easy to skim and engaging.

For example, a recent Financial Times article on Artificial Intelligence strips back the jargon and focuses on the information that the audience wants to know. The article description says, “An AI just passed a university exam (but don’t panic: it was only economics).” It’s written in a language that’s engaging, contains the relevant info and makes you want to know more.

Remember your audience

Even in the B2B world, your audience is still human (shocker!) and will respond better to a human narrative crafted with everyday (note: not ‘dumbed down’) language. According to research, the more complicated and abstract the sentence, the harder it is to remember.

For example, a 1972 study by Ian Begg found that, “concrete phrases [see below for an explanation] were more likely to be remembered, with four times as many participants able to recall the concrete phrases over the abstract ones.”

And a study by Packard and Berger reveals that, “concreteness increases people’s willingness to buy and how much they actually spend. Their results showed that concrete language increased purchase intentions by up to 12% and actual purchases by 13-30%.”

But what exactly is concrete language? Behavioural science expert Richard Shotton suggests that using language that encourages visualisation is a good place to start.

“In practice, Begg’s point of visualisation is a good rule of thumb – i.e. can you visualise the thing you’re saying?” Richard explains, “It’s important that your readers are able to imagine the contents of your message, as this is where memorability kicks in.”

And this sometimes involves explaining things by fabricating a scenario that seems unrealistic.

Concise and consistent

When condensing complex information into digestible bites, useful leaves can be taken out of redditor’s books. The ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ (ELI5) thread offers some solid rules you can apply to your simple messaging strategy:

1 – Explain for laypeople (but not actual five-year-olds)

In other words, avoid dumbing things down to excess. Just keep the irrelevant bits out of the way and get to the meat of what people need to know quickly, clearly and without assuming knowledge on behalf of the consumer.

2 – Loaded questions are not allowed

This one applies to both copywriting and life in general: loaded questions can sound accusatory. Consider using rhetorical questions that spark intrigue or touch a pain point instead. That way you’ll draw people in without putting them out.

3 – Don’t fudge things

Simple messaging is the name of the game, but upholding a level of authority in your copy is critical. Don’t add vague statements to pad things out as it will sound wishy-washy and detract from your key messages.

A brief window of opportunity

In the B2B world, you’d imagine that your audience will take a more measured, considered approach to purchasing products and services. Here’s the thing – they won’t. They’ll still be driven by the innate human instinct to make a quick decision. Nielsen research reveals that the majority of us spend less than 10 seconds deliberating a purchasing decision – even on $multimillion contracts. The lesson? Get to the point quickly. This means prioritising the ‘why’ (or in other words: ‘which means’) rather than the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. Talking of which…

How does it benefit them?

Cut to the chase about the real-world benefits of your products or services. Placing the effect of your product or service front and centre is a great way to convince people of its value without having to explain how it works.

Take Samsung phones for instance. They’re some of the most complex pieces of handheld kit ever created – AI powered interface, GPS navigation, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (yawn), etc. – but their marketing boils down to ‘Take photos in the dark’, a really clear and effective simplification of how a complex product benefits its users.

If you’d like some expert agency input on crafting a messaging strategy that keeps things simple, get in touch for a chat today!