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Is Your Marketing Message Getting Muddled?

Is Your Marketing Message Getting Muddled?
Image credit: Roger Smith

When it comes to formulating your marketing message, it is imperative to be clear, concise and thoughtful to make the largest impact. If you sway the other way by providing too much information in a complicated manner, your message may get lost.

For instance, in "When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings," authors Kurt A. Carlson and Suzanne B. Shu suggest marketing messages with more than three claims trigger consumer skepticism and disbelief.

This statement can also be bolstered by the fact that having too many claims (or options) can confuse people, resulting in consumers just giving up and walking away.

Daniel McFadden, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Economist that consumers find myriad options disturbing because of the "risk of misperception and miscalculation, of misunderstanding the available alternatives, of misreading one's own tastes, of yielding to a moment's whim and regretting it afterwards." This combined with "the stress of information acquisition" can result in what is known as shopper's paralysis, a situation where consumers find the decision too difficult to decide and therefore buy nothing.

To make sure your message doesn't get lost in the shuffle, keep these tips in mind:

Pick three attributes. What are the most important strengths or stand out qualities of your product? Make a list, whittle it down to the three essential or most compelling ones and have these be the consistent centerpiece of your messaging. 

Related: 8 Do's and Don'ts for Marketing on Online Forums and Message Boards

For example, Wells Fargo's message emphasizes experience, ethics and forward movement.  While it offers many technological benefits, including online banking and smart phone apps, those are not the prominent features it markets. Instead, they choose to focus on timeless qualities to maintain its base and lure consumers who may be weary -- and leery -- of trendier banking campaigns and promises.

Another example is J.C. Penney. One reason for the retailer's downturn was they tried to send too many messages to their core customer.  For instance, the store's new home department was supposed to bring in customers who could help lift it out of a financial death spiral, but instead valuable selling space filled with home goods from high-end names like Jonathan Adler, Michael Graves and Sir Terence Conran sat empty.  These high-end furniture items weren't cohesive with its other focuses: family friendly, great prices and affordable brand names. With too many messages, the consumers got confused and gave up.

Don't disappoint: You're counting on three ideas to capture your audience's attention.  Not only should they be forceful, easy to understand and beneficial but also true.  You want your satisfied customers to tell their friends or colleagues, "It really works" or "It's a really good product." 

Related: Five Tips for Better Text-Message Marketing

The Kindle Fire HDX is another story. It was one of the most successful products of 2013, as it provided users a desired level of media to consumer, at a low price and in a beautiful format. And all it claims happens to be true, at least according to numerous tech reviewers and consumers. No disappointment there.

On the flip side, the opposite reaction can do serious damage to a business -- and sometimes it's permanent.  Many business pundits predicted the fall of Suzuki, and indeed, in January they announced they would stop selling cars in the US. One reason is they lost share to other car manufacturers who have plenty of low cost fuel-efficient vehicles that compete with Susuki's lower-end or relatively inexpensive cars

Another reason? Suzuki has trouble selling cars because its reputation among drivers doesn't compare to the company's reliability message.  A 2012 J.D. Power survey of car dependability in the U.S. put Suzuki's scores for power trains, body and materials, features and accessories below almost every other brand -- foreign and domestic.

Related: 5 Tips to Help Your Marketing Messages Sing

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Debra Kaye is a brand and culture strategist and partner at Lucule, a New York-based innovation consulting firm. She is author of the book, Red Thread Thinking (McGraw-Hill, 2013).

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