Hard to be Noticed? Simplify Your Marketing to Win Customers

Aug 16, 2021

To be noticed and remembered, it helps to simplify your marketing.

Take icebergs, for example.

They’re really fascinating.

Simplified marketing can be illustrated by a sharp iceberg

During World War II, the British tried to manufacture some icebergs to help build untrackable plane carriers.

Another fact...

They are pure ice water.

Since saltwater is slightly heavier, around 87.5% of the iceberg stays underwater, while the remaining 12.5% shows above the surface.

Become an iceberg to simplify your marketing

No matter how many products you offer...

Or how many messages you share…

Only ~12.5% should show at the surface.

You have to work hard to keep the tip of your iceberg as sharp, as shiny, as pointy as possible so you can break through what I call the four great filters of marketing:

  1. Get noticed

  2. Get remembered

  3. Get remembered in buying situations

  4. Get talked about

To break through the four great filters of marketing, don’t make these common mistakes...

Too many of us are trying to show multiple value propositions to multiple segments in multiple categories, giving multiple gifts.

It's basically like trying to show the entire iceberg, and that's mistake #1.

This comes from a place of fear.

...Something that Stand The F*ck Out participants struggle with, a lot.

They’re terrified to go narrow. They fear the market they pick might be too small.

But when you try to show the entire iceberg, you're fighting nature. Only ~12.5% will show, and the rest will sink anyway.

According to Miller's Law, the more you say, the less will be processed.

Humans have a short-term memory with a duration of around 30 seconds, and we have the capacity to process between only 5 to 9 core ideas at any given time.

Miller's Law suggests we should simplify marketing by communicating very few things to customers

​That's because our brain is trying to use as little energy as possible. It doesn't want to burn too many calories.

Simplify your marketing by targeting one niche at a time.

Mistake #2: Showing too many icebergs.

It prevents people from putting you into a box and from creating a proper memory structure so that they remember you the next time they might need a product/service like yours.

Jenni Romaniuk, author of Building Distinctive Brand Assets from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science writes in detail about how this works in the brain:

To simplify your marketing, you can focus on building memory structures one memory node at a time.To simplify your marketing, you can focus on building memory structures one memory node at a time.

Simplify your marketing by building associations one memory node at a time.

Mistake #3: Building an iceberg that’s just too complex.

You might think you'll look dumb if you use words that are too simple, but take a look at what serial entrepreneur Hiten Shah has to say about this:

"So I think some of those things are super dangerous. Some of these companies used to say AI on their homepage. You go to those same companies if they're still around... a lot of them don't say AI on their homepage anymore. They don't say AI. They don't say machine learning. They don't say anything like that. Another good example is big data.

So I think those are some really good examples from tech, at least where certain terminology was really hot and then it disappeared. And this is evidence that the more complicated you get or buzzwordy you get, the less longevity."

Also, research cleverly entitled, "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly" suggests the use of complex words makes you look dumb, not smarter. They found that "the effect is extremely robust: needless complexity leads to negative evaluation."

Simplify your marketing by using simple words.

Mistake #4: Throwing the iceberg at customers’ faces.

We tend to expect way too much from our customers straight away.

We think they know everything about our product, our category, our company.

And so we put everything in front of them. We expect them to buy on the first visit or to sign up to our email list without really trusting us.

But this violates some important principles.

Think about the foot-in-the-door principle.

In order to get people to spend a lot of time or energy or resources with you, you need to warm them up by starting with something small.

The other principle is that humans satisfice (a portmanteau term coined by Economy Nobel-Prize winner Herbert A. Simon that mixes satisfying and sufficient).

We don't try to pick the very best option objectively. Instead, we choose the least uncertain option.

That's how we've evolved to survive.

And the least uncertain option for someone who doesn't know you is to basically skip you and choose something else.

Simplify your marketing by focusing on getting customers in the door first.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

You can't fight nature to get noticed, to get remembered, and to get talked about.

Here’s what you really need:

  • One value proposition (or single-minded proposition, key message, brand promise… it all means the same thing): This is what makes people say, "Yeah, I'm interested."

  • One segment: These are the people you seek to serve. Learn how to pick an underserved market segment.

  • One category: This is the box people put you in, the node they associate with their existing memory structure (Learn more)

  • One gift: This is the thing you offer before you expect people to buy from you or subscribe. You need to give first before anything else.

  • One spice: When everyone else is bland and the same, this is what makes you stand out and be remembered.

Those combined are the tip of your iceberg, and all of those must be congruent.

5 examples to simplify your marketing and sharpen your iceberg

Example 1: Everyone Hates Marketers

EveryoneHatesMarketers.com is an example of how to simplify your marketing

Value: Learn to stand the f*ck out

Segment: Risk-takers who are sick of marketing bullshit

Category: Marketing programs

Gift: Newsletter/podcast

Spice: Too intense

Example 2: Four Sigmatic

Four Sigmatic is an example of how to simplify your marketing

Value: Get the energy to focus without the crash

Segment: People who need to be productive

Category: Mushroom-based coffee

Gift: 10% off the first order, 20% off with subscription (could be better)

Spice: Too weird

Example 3: Shanty Biscuits

Shanty Biscuits is an example of how to simplify your marketing

Value: Original way to enjoy your best moments

Segment: French women who want to celebrate in style

Category: Personalized French biscuits

Gift: Funny Instagram account

Spice: Too saucy

Example 4: Pet Doors

Pet Doors is an example of how to simplify your marketing

Value: Give your pet complete freedom

Segment: Dog/cat owners living in a house

Category: Pet doors

Gift: Free shipping (again...could be better)

Spice: Too many pet doors to choose from

Example 5: Red Bull

Red Bull is an example of how to simplify your marketing

Value: Gives you wings

Segment: Young, middle/upper class who want energy

Category: Energy drink

Gift: Entertainment (F1, cliff diving, soccer...)

Spice: Too disgusting

6 steps to simplify your marketing and build the sharpest iceberg imaginable

Step 1: Identify one underserved segment in one specific category.

What is the least uncertain option in your opinion: a general copywriter, or a copywriter who specializes in the debt industry, for example?

If you work for The Kaplan Group (one of the biggest debt collection agencies in the US), you'd probably choose the latter.

We as humans pick the least uncertain option. We don't take many risks. We satisfice.

When you focus your attention in a specific category for a specific segment (copywriter in the debt industry), you help customers to satisfice because you tend to be less uncertain than someone who tries to serve everyone (general copywriter).

Step 2: Come up with ONE value proposition. It's the intersection of what your core segment cares about the most and what you do best.

List all the problems your segment has, and rank them from moderate pain to most severe pain like the diagram below:

Simplify your marketing by choosing only one value proposition

Then pick the value that is most potent...the bleeding neck problem that you can solve very well. Remember, for humans, it’s either about thriving or surviving.

Step 3: Come up with a gift. It doesn't have to be free. Even ads can be a gift if they educate or entertain.

You must give before expecting to receive. This is the reciprocity principle in action.

Any good gift is:

Generous: Does it give your customers status? Does it alleviate boredom? Does it feel risky to share it?

Connected: Are you curating instead of creating? Would people find it valuable if their friend shared it with them?

Eternal: Is it still going to be valuable five years from now? Is it maintenance-free? Can it be turned into a series?

Step 4: Come up with your distinctive spice.

Pay close attention to companies you admire: what they do and, more importantly, what they DON'T do. Look at the sacrifices they are making. Think about where they are going all in, where they are too <something>.

To quote Rory Sutherland, author of Alchemy, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy Group:

simplify your marketing by adding only one spice

Or as Seth Godin says in Purple Cow:

"Real growth comes from products that annoy, offend, are too expensive, too ugly, too cheap, too heavy, too complicated, too simple."

You need to go all-in toward one direction.

Try looking at it from different lenses:

You can simplify your marketing by looking at the business through one of these lenses.

Step 5. Audit your current journey from the perspective of the customers.

Remove anything that contradicts the tip of the iceberg (your one value, segment, category, gift, and spice).

Everything must be congruent.

Go on… Kill your darlings.

Step 6. Show up consistently for months, even years.

You’re not Coca-Cola or Apple. It takes time to build the right nodes in people’s memory.

This can only be achieved by spreading the same core message time and time again to the same group of people.


To summarize

  • Work hard to create the shiniest, sharpest, precise tip of the iceberg.

  • Identify ONE value, segment, category, gift, and spice.

  • Be congruent throughout your entire iceberg.

  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. Your people will thank you.

  • Show up consistently and repeatedly, for months, even years.

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