Customer Experience News & Trends

Should your marketing message be clear or clever? Here’s help

When you want customers to remember your message, should you be clever?

Sure, clever ideas, jingles and catchphrases stick trigger customers’ emotions. But if the message across your customer experience is clear, it’s easy to remember.

So what’s more effective?

“Be both clever and clear when you can,” says Dianna Booher, writing expert and author of What More Can I Say? “If you can’t manage both, forget clever.”

Why clear works

Bottom line: Clear has to be the driving force behind the marketing message you want to express and customer experience you want to create.

Here’s why:

  • Clarity builds trust. Customers won’t believe, approve, buy or recommend anything they don’t fully understand. A message that’s vague, ambiguous or nonspecific comes across as untrustworthy, and that’s no way to start the customer experience.
  • Keyword searches favor clear words. People speak, think and search with direct language. When they use Google to find a product, answer or service, they don’t type witty words. Booher offers this example: If someone is concerned about lowering cholesterol, she’ll likely type “how to lower cholesterol” or “eat to cut cholesterol,” not “get fit or get fat.”
  • People don’t like bad surprises. Clever messages can lead to disappointments. Witty words might describe a product or service differently than it actually is. Then customers don’t get what they expect when they open or experience it.

How to be clear

These five proven approaches will help you keep any marketing message clear:

  • Focus on a target audience. Know the type of person you want to read and understand your message. Define everything that affects their purchasing style — age, income, lifestyle, profession, hobbies, habits, etc.
  • Narrow your theme. You can’t make complex and compounded ideas sound like a clear, focused message. Pick the most important benefits of your product, service or company, and build a message around them — keeping the language simple, short and centered on the solution you provide.
  • Emphasize what’s unique. Focus on what differentiates your product, service or company from the competition. What makes you better or more valuable than others?
  • Add what’s fresh. Create excitement (regularly) about your products, services or company by adding an element to your message on what’s new or changing. Even minor tweaks to what’s familiar can feel new.
  • Build emotion to cause action. If you make customers feel smart, happy, logical or other positive emotions, they’re more likely to heed your call-to-action (“contact us,” “visit,” “buy,” “request”).

When clever works

Clear is the clear winner when you want to get your message to customers. But clever can work — when it’s done exceptionally well. Some examples that have stuck with us over time:

  1. Nike — Just Do It
  2. Miller Lite — Great Taste, Less Filling
  3. California Milk Processor Board — Got Milk?
  4. De Beers — A Diamond is Forever
  5. Wendy’s — Where’s the Beef?

How can you add clever, when appropriate? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t force it. If something clever doesn’t come naturally, keep it clear. People need to understand cleverness for it to be effective. Ask you mother, uncle, best friend or anyone who normally “gets it” to look at your clever message. If they don’t get your point, skip it.
  • Keep it extremely short. You’ll see in the five successful examples, there are no more than four words. Clever is seldom found in a full sentence.

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