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Adding mystery to simplicity

This weekend I was at a dinner where I was the only non banker. Yes one of those..

The people there did things like ‘ credit derivatives structuring’, ‘flow credit rating’, ‘quantitative portfolio management’. Being a mere marketer, I had absolutely no idea what they meant. But it was clear that they were all involved in making a ton of money, for their banks, and of course for themselves.

I find these gatherings very educational. For example I learnt that ‘ as long as your rental yield is greater than your mortgage interest then you are not depending on capital appreciation for your asset to generate wealth’. Tell me another gathering where you’ll hear such wisdom!

However, I digress.

Thinking about the evening later I realised that what the bankers do is simple. Make money.

How they do it is far more complex.

Yes we can blame them for the recession. In every profession, there are a few rotten apples. And, I am not planning to wave a flag on their behalf. Rather make the point that : There is a lot of money to be made if a business/brand can work to a simple formula : Simplify the benefit, complicate/mystify the process.

Bankers can make you a lot of money. Through complex investments, debt structures etc.

Lawyers can spring you free, draw up your contracts etc. Through deep understanding of the law.

Apple gave us touch screen devices. Hiding behind which was extremely mystifying technology.

Google delivers what you are looking for. Through some mysterious algorithm.

And so on..

Perhaps, there is a learning in this for the marketing communications business.

One of the commonest refrains in the field is ‘Keep It Simple Silly/Stupid’. Followed closely by ‘Be Single Minded’.

In the case of brands that focus on functional benefit based communications, a lot of effort is spent in trying to simplify the whole process.

Perhaps this needs to be revisited by adding a section on ‘How’.

By this I mean, while the benefit should be simple eg 1000 songs in your pocket, spend as much time on the How. If mystery around this can be created may be a winning combination is at hand.

This opens the door to a debate over ‘transparency’ eg if we say the detergent has lime or toothpaste has clove we build greater credibility.

True that.

However, when consumers buy brands they also want to be part of something special. Something magical.

I keep hearing that we want to build relationships with our customers.In the real world we have strong relationships with many people that can’t be explained. The benefit is Simple : ‘enjoyable company’ but the Why..well that is harder to define.

Perhaps transplanting that to brand management is a way to building stronger brands too. Add a dose of mystique.

As I end, I am reminded of this memorable interaction with a highly respected Indian marketer. As was its won’t the agency was banging on about Single Mindedness. After a while this CEO stopped the creative director with this quote ”Sometimes you see a really beautiful woman. You can’t say she is beautiful because of her eyes, or her hair or her complexion or any one thing. As a complete picture she is beautiful. That is the magic you need to bring to my advertising’







  1. April 30, 2012 at 11:40 am

    interesting. with my former CD we used to chat about how clients wanted magic dust: sprinkle it over my problems and they will go away. They dont want to know about the complexity, they want the result and don’t care how you the agency do it. Similarly, bankers make money, only other bankers care how they do it. we just need them to keep making money. unfortunately making money seems to be a zero sum game, while advertising isn’t.

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