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The Misery of Multiple Messages

It’s often the most long-in-the-tooth marketing principles that are the most misused or ignored. Who’s got time these days for old-style thinking? It’s the digital era, grandad! Surely fresh, breakthrough approaches are needed, not methods built on decades of wisdom and experience?

A quick glance at any email inbox will illustrate how so many marketers continue to make rookie mistakes. How many marketing emails do you have (probably in the Deleted Items or To Be Ignored folder) with 4, 5, 6, maybe a dozen or more different call-to-action (CTA) buttons or links?

Buttons are cheap, they’re just pixels. Adding more costs nothing, right?

Wrong. Every new message you try to convey to your target audience steals attention from all that have gone before.

Or, in short, if you need to say one thing, please say one thing only.

Here’s the proof, from Millward Brown’s Link™ database analysis of thousands of pieces of marketing communication:

The headline says it all:

THE MORE MESSAGES YOU TRY AND COMMUNICATE THE LOWER THE LIKELIHOOD OF COMMUNICATING ANY SINGLE MESSAGE.

Millward Brown

So which call(s)-to-action deserve to be in your next marketing communication piece or advertisement? Here’s how I decide. Imagine your target audience is seated in front of you. All of them. In a giant hall, with you standing on-stage, nervously drawing breath behind the lectern.

You’ve got one chance, only one, to inspire them to do the most important thing that will serve your commercial goal. What will you say?

That one thing is your primary (and ideally only) call-to-action that deserves to appear in your next communication piece.

Say that thing, say it well, and get off-stage. Your work is done. Nice job.

But what if you have more than one thing to say? You may, in exceptional circumstances, add additional CTAs on the strict understanding that each message dilutes the effectiveness of every previous message. But remember, your audience’s desire to listen is limited. Say too much and they’ll remember nothing of you. If that’s an effectiveness gamble you are prepared to take, go for it.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

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