Monday, October 25, 2010

The Essence of the Message

The other day, my daughter Mina presented me with this drawing that I really love:
To understand the context, for the past many mornings on the way to her school, we've passed a flock of hummingbirds zipping in and out among the flowers.  I love these walks with my daughter because no matter how chaotic the "get-the-kids-to-school" morning rush has been, by the time we reach the hummingbirds she's happy.  This picture captures beautifully the essence of our walks.

I particularly liked this drawing because I've always been fascinated by Japanese "sumi-e" inkbrush painting.  Sumi-e is a style of art that seeks to capture the essence of a scene with the minimum number of brushstroke.

The pictures can convey the essence of simple things...

...or more complex things.
And what I find fascinating is how the essence is often conveyed less by the actual strokes you see as by the  strokes that were never made.
In marketing, when developing positioning or crafting a message, we face the same challenge as the sumi-e artist, namely how to communicate the essence of our message with the fewest possible elements.

But, this is harder to do than it looks.  When faced with the task of developing a slogan, positioning statement, or the ubiquitous elevator pitch, we often take the direct approach which is to describe it in more detail. The problem with this is that in our zeal to describe things completely, we lose the essence in the complexity.
Whether we're creating a marketing message, a position statement, a strategy, a product, we only learn what's the core essence by continually removing the extraneous and by imposing restrictions.  This is one of the keys behind the concept of Minimum Viable Product in Customer Development.  This is the purpose of the "60/60" rule (i.e. 60 seconds or less in 60 words or less) in elevator pitch development.  This is why any business strategy that requires more than a single page to describe becomes dead paper.

When know too far? Not connecting.
Still with me?

How about now?

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