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Recently I cancelled my cable, a decision that has me thinking small. Instead of watching hours of television, for a fraction of that time I am watching YouTube videos, among them documentaries on the origins and composition of the universe. On the grandest of scales, in our universe there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. On a microscopic scale, every person is comprised of trillions of atoms, the building blocks of all matter in that seemingly infinite universe.
So in a nutshell, our universe is complicated light years beyond the understanding of even the most mindbogglingly intelligent people who have ever lived. Like Sir Isaac Newton, for example, who – realizing that the mathematics of his day was inadequate in explaining how the Moon fell around the earth - invented calculus at age 23 and put it to paper at the same speed as undergrads learn it today the world over.
In the face of this complexity, the physicists and cosmologists I’m watching on YouTube have pulled off a remarkable feat of branding: they have made the world’s most far-out ideas accessible to the masses.
What do they call the event that set in motion our un-understandable universe? Three simple words: ”The Big Bang.”
Then have a look at this equation:
…and consider the quest, seemingly complicated to the point of absurdity, to come up with one (one!) theory that explains everything that has happened and ever will happen in our universe. What do physicists call it? They express it, impossibly simply, as the “The Theory of Everything.”
Think about this the next time you’re trying to accomplish one of the fundamental tasks of branding: articulating how your product, service, event, company or non-profit is different than everything else in the cosmos. Yes, the relevant attributes of your brand can be many, and their interrelationships relatively complex. Accordingly, there is a tendency to use copious and convoluted language to articulate what’s believed to be important.
Instead, take a page from the pointy-headed physicists and aim for simplicity – because it’s simplicity that will actually sink in with your audience. Check out these positioning statements of famous brands, a random sample taken from a list on Wikipedia. It seems the big brands may have some physicists on their team:
From some of the most successful brands in history, who collectively spent many millions creating these lines – lines that in many cases describe massively complex businesses – come some of the simplest and shortest words in the world: we, good, your, you’re, best, no, do, it.
Not to say these lines were easy to arrive at. Any perceived ease is an illusion – one of branding’s most difficult challenges being to express complexity in an accessible fashion. It’s not physics, but it’s still tough. Or as C. Montgomery Burns once put it: ”Dammit, Smithers – this isn’t rocket science, it’s brain surgery!”
In case you missed it: my short interview with CBC Radio One about IKEA’s horse meat problem
Also in case you missed it: My BNN interview re. Lance Armstrong’s brand (starts at the 3:30 mark, after the ad).