Navigating Minimalism and Maximalism in Marketing
No doubt you’ve all heard of the poor guy who starved to death, equidistant between two three star restaurants with perfectly valid credit cards in his pocket. He just couldn’t deal with having to make the momentous decision to choose one or the other.
Given the number of data and AI marketing options at our fingertips, the bewildering range of media to choose from, the unlimited possibilities for product and service pricing and delivery systems, are we sure that we aren’t facing the same fate — death by maximalism.
I thought I’d made up the word but as usual, Google put me right.
“The term maximalism can refer to anything which is excessive, overtly complex and "showy", or providing redundant overkill in features and attachments, grossness in quantity and quality and maximalism the tendency to add and accumulate to excess.”
Discussing this maximalism with a sophisticated and highly successful marketing colleague, he just shook his head and admitted that while he certainly was guided by the wealth of data available, “in the last analysis” he said, “I just follow my gut.”
Regular readers of Target Marketing will have seen a number of thoughtful pieces on determining the optimum number of marketing messages to send and when enough is enough. Not surprisingly, despite their general recommendations, none that I can remember have come down solidly and told us whether to maximize or minimize the frequency of communications.
The essence of the maximum/minimum question would appear to be driven by priorities and these are likely to be different — not only for each marketer but for each product or service. Determining what’s most important to you is a very good place to start, and surprisingly not the metric that many marketers use.
Most of us start (or should start) by looking at the bottom line. That would be easy if there was only a single bottom line. But we all know that the priority of determining whether we are looking for a single profit point, a lifetime value, an increase in brand value, the optimum return on our marketing investment (ROMI) or some other metric, must impact our answer. Haven’t we all seen instances where, for example, late in the fiscal year marketing management discovers that approved promotion monies have not yet been spent and fearing that as a result, budget allocations for the following year might be reduced, rationalizes an immediate, urgent campaign to use this money?
Various studies of consumer attitudes to commercial email communications support research published by Campaign Monitor that clearly indicated that the largest reason subscribers flag email as spam (almost 46%) is “they emailed too often.” As we all know, too often can be a big turnoff. I stopped watching CNN because the multitude of "short breaks" were longer than the news content.
This doesn’t mean that we should abandon the maximalism of our marketing efforts for minimalism despite the current and trending rage among brands for "less is more."
“Minimalism as branding is a bit of a divergence from the historic take on minimalism. It takes its core principles from the movement and presents a unified, cohesive framework that emphasizes clean, simple designs with exacting focus.”
Think not only of graphic design but of total strategic marketing focus, as well.
On the basis of long experience with what works and what doesn’t, the Denny Hatch school of direct marketing applauds with good reason, maximized "ugly" presentation and beating the bushes for orders as long as it is profitable.
That said, there is an increasingly strong argument for stepping back a little and meditating on the possibility that instead of maximizing our promotional efforts, we test minimizing them. We could then determine whether the consumer trend is away from "the more the better" consumerism and we can develop more and better customer relationships with less communications.
With so many choices available to marketers, we are like the poor fellow who starved to death, in danger of starvation in the midst of an abundance of plenty. Perhaps it’s time to start listen more to our guts than to our data.
Peter J. Rosenwald is an expat American living and working in Brazil; founder and first CEO of Wunderman Worldwide, International Division of Wunderman agency) and first chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Direct Worldwide; strategist and senior executive in charge of building subscription and data-driven marketing for Editora Abril, Latin America's leading magazine publisher; founder of Consult Partners, active strategic marketing consultancy working in Brazil, U.S. and U.K. International keynote speaker on data-driven marketing and author of "Accountable Marketing" (Thomson), "Profiting From the Magic of Marketing Metrics" (Direct Marketing IQ), and "GringoView" blog author for Brazilian Huffington Post. With an international perspective, my blog's purpose is to share my maverick views of this business I've spent the last half-century working in, enjoying and observing.