Simple and Clear: The Art of Refining Your Brand’s Message


“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This adage seems to make perfect sense, from a marketing standpoint. No one wants to settle on a bad idea that leads to no measurable success. Too often, brands try “even if you succeed, try, try again.” This results in brands which appear to suffer from ADD. Brands with multiple messages — no matter how individually great they are —  will still find there is consumer confusion. We see this happening in advertising campaigns, packaging, websites. Shockingly, this happens with logos, where there are endless variations, sometimes related, sometimes not.

Initial marketing success is often found by relying on help from friends and  relatives. Typically, there is little or no budget allocated for marketing. When brands experience rapid growth, they often end up with separate marketing strategies for online and print. This rarely happens by design. It’s likely the result of no plan, or lack of communication. 

The larger issue is that there is no one within the organization in charge of the messaging. Without any documentation of what is “on-brand” vs “off-brand,” nothing is communicated. Smart brands abandon this slow, inefficient, and expensive process. A simple and clear approach is what’s needed to refine the brand’s message.

The Brand Audit
When messaging can be viewed all together, brands can understand how many messages exist. MSLK’s Brand Strategy process studies an organization’s messaging across all media. During this process, themes usually emerge. Social and online statistics can also be become powerful tools for insight into the most effective messaging to use.

Just One Thing
For design and marketing, “Just One Thing” is our internal mantra. We believe having one great thing is more powerful than five. In branding, this can mean a simple logo rendered in a distinctive color. A memorable material used in a product’s packaging could be the “One Thing.” Sometimes, it could even be as simple as a word. The key is simple and distinctive within the context of the marketplace. 

Coping with Internal Fatigue
Successful brands often become bored by their own successful campaigns. (Or packaging, logos, whatever…) The knee-jerk solution is to scrap it for something new. This happens most with internal marketing departments, the desire to create something new.

Experience shows that a well-laid marketing plan should serve a brand well for years. If you’re tired of the same messaging for the past two years, this does not mean that your audience feels that way! They do not interact with your brand with this intensity day after day. Unless this sense is coming from the outside, you are likely just beginning to reach people. It is usually a matter of refining the focus, and trying a few minor variations on it to keep things fresh. Seasonal promotions are great reasons to use theme and variation.

The Key to Simplicity is Focus
Simplicity can be difficult to embrace. It forces you to limit your options and focus your efforts. Steve Jobs built the world’s most successful company based on simplicity and focus:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”