Be less Umberto – better marketing through and after the crisis.

Umberto Eco deliberately made the first 100 pages of his novel hard to read so that only his ‘ideal reader’ made it through. ‘The Name of the Rose’ sold over 50 million copies, but it’s probably not an example most marketing people would deliberately follow.

Aug 14, 2020

By Neil Davidson

How do communications really work?

The Coronavirus crisis is rich in learnings for better marketing communications. It started with questions about the clarity of government communications and moved onto ‘Corona wallpaper’ accusations for advertising. Now we are debating the communications targeting the obesity crisis.

It’s a reminder that we don’t really know as much as we think we know about how communications work, and the range of opinions through the crisis shows that there is no unified view either.

Learning from ‘Corona wallpaper’ and the crisis

Take ‘Corona wallpaper’ advertising, much derided within marketing, criticised on the assumption that similar and repetitive messages of support and resilience don’t connect. The reality for some brands such as M&S was that it performed extremely well for them, questioning some of our assumptions about effective advertising.

One of my favourite sayings is ‘never waste a crisis’. This is hopefully the worst crisis we will all live through so we should use it to challenge our marketing assumptions, particularly as many of the legacy models we use to design communications were disproved in the last century.

Ease – the silver buckshot for marketing

There is no silver bullet for better marketing. But there is at least a silver buckshot, and that is ease of understanding of communications. In the race for distinctiveness and creativity we often forget to balance that against making communications easier to process.

Neuroscience research has shown ease of understanding to have a disproportionate effect on communications effectiveness. Being too clever and too distinctive often has the opposite effect. Brand and government campaigns through and after the crisis would all be more effective if they managed complexity and made it easier for our brains to process.

Unless you happen to be an Italian professor specialising in semiotics and medieval studies there is one easy trick for making your marketing communications effectiveness.

Be less Umberto.