On clarity

« Out of the mouth of babes »… they so often say when a child just blurts out the truth. In this case, we should say « Out of the drawings of babes »…

Look at the following drawing handed by a first grade girl to her teacher as a homework assignment. 

when-i-grow-drawing1What are your first thoughts? Not so nice ;-).

Let me explain the whole story behind that picture. 

After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child’s illustration. It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint. I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This drawing is of me selling a shovel.

Mrs. Harrington

Thanks to my friend Andrea T. who forwarded me this picture as a joke. However, after a good laugh, it made me think about something interesting.  We, as marketers,  do not pay enough attention about how our messages are understood by our audience. We assume they understand what we want them to understand. Whether it is online, on TV, radio, paper or even in face-to-face conversations.

I receive and I watch tons of creative ads that are certainly funny or original but,  I am often struggling to identify what is the message the advertiser wants me to recall from its ad.

I am certainly not the only one.

To me,  an unclear message equals noise and waste of money. Did you work on your USP recently?

PS: I will do a post on the importance of having a clear USP in a future post. Be sure to come back.

5 réflexions au sujet de « On clarity »

  1. Etienne,

    I think there are 2 problems here.

    1- Clarity of the message. I agree it is sometime impossible to understand what the message is. I often find myself in front of the television laughing but not for the right reasons.

    I think the Budweiser Light television ad is in part a good example. When Mr. Budd Light says to a bunch of German with sausages “there won’t be any sausages party tonight my friends”, I simply don’t get it. What’s the point of wasting 10 seconds on something people don’t understand? First degree humour… I get it, but it doesn’t reinforce the brand at all.

    2- Clarity of the brand announcing. You will have to do a post on this. How many times have you been in front of an ad not even knowing who was the announcer? You’ll remember the ad, but you simply can’t pin point the brand behind it.

    At the end of the day, I think a great ad is one that makes it easy for people to remember (with the right message in line with your brand positioning), but above all, it’s an ad that will be clear enough to understand the message and also to identify the brand behind it.

    Have a great weekend.


  2. Alex, thanks for your comment. It is as always a pleasure to read your thoughts on my blog. I think you second point will deserve a post in the future. Even if I am no longer a true believer of traditional advertising, I think that you are absolutely right with your points on message clarity and brand clarity.

    Feed me with a few other examples and I will integrate them in a future post.

    If somebody esle has great examples to illustrate this point, feel free to drop them here for a future post.


  3. I agree and disagree with the comments…. How about, when the message isn’t clear for you, because it not meant for you. Clarity is one thing, but I think we need to keep in mind the target market.

    I might not laugh\get\be moved by a certain message, I might even find it irrelevant, gross or shocking but it doesn’t necessarely mean that it’s not doing it’s job. And I think as marketers we need to be able to remove ourselves from the equation from time to time.

    PS: Love the blog Etienne, big fan !

    • @Gabrielle, thanks for taking time to write a comment and thnaks for your support 😉 .

      yes this is a good point. Marketing has no purpose if not targeted and in that sense you are absolutely right. However, with that post I was refering to mass products advertised using mass media such as radio or television. In my opinion, you gotta have a minimum level of clarity. I am often right in the target for an advertised brand or product and I just do not get what they mean or worst, i do not remember what brand was advertised.
      Sometimes, the creative team goes too far and completely lose focus of the objectives and target market.

      Let’s do a test at the next Superbowl. Give me your list of most preferred ads and why? And then, try to assess who is the target for each ad? Normally all the Superbowl ads should target the same type of people: American football fans. And normally, all American football fans should understand the messages in the same way. I can predict it won’t be the case, because sometimes creativity overlaps clarity. But that is the subject for another post! Any thoughts? Feel free to share them with me.


  4. Ping : 5 types de billets pour un blogue en santé « Etienne Chabot’s Blog


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