Simple still sells.

Simple still sells.

Ok, so the economy stinks. It’s stunk for a while and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop stinking anytime soon, and we’ve all seen the many bad things that can happen in a poor economy over the last year.

From an advertising and marketing point of view one of two things happens in a bad economy:  businesses either decide to stop or reduce their advertising (budgets have to be cut and why advertise if nobody’s buying, right?), or they decide to stop targeting their advertising messaging and be all things to all people.  After all, sales are slow and a wider net should be cast, right?  We see this in the sustainability world, even in a good economy — ads with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in:  “this product is organic and made with renewable energy and we give to the Nature Conservancy and treat our employees great!”

Well, let’s take a step back for a second and look at the target of our communications.

They’re people.

Not color-laden pie charts or graphs that look like EKG readouts.


And the last thing any normal person needs in a time of crisis is a ton of confusing facts they have to pour through and work at to fully grasp. Sure, it seems logical that if you present more you get more but in sustainable advertising the reverse always holds true. More data and more jargon just confuses people even more and makes it harder for them to make a greener buying decision.  (Speaking of graphs and pie charts:  we see that far fewer Americans today can name a source of renewable energy or a feature of a green home than they could three years ago. We’ve given them just enough information to confuse the daylights out of them.)

When everything in your consumers’ lives is becoming more and more complex your message should become more and more focused. Making sure your benefits are relayed simply and clearly in a way that is creative enough to be remembered will go a long way to creating a positive reaction. A complex message in complex times makes that message very easy to pass over.

We’ve all heard the KISS principal, Keep It Simple Stupid. Whether it’s wisdom on display or just a sneaky way to call someone stupid (I’ve always suspected), it’s good advice. A simple, easy message will be much appreciated and accepted — and it IS the way to market in a down economy, especially in the sustainability world.

About the Author

Larry Washington

Larry Washington is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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