“Keep it simple, stupid” is a tried and true design principle that was coined decades ago by the U.S. Navy.
I learned the value of K.I.S.S. as a freshly minted MBA graduate working in the marketing department at American Express. We made new credit card solicitations so simple that all prospective customers had to do was sign their name and drop the pre-addressed and postage-paid response card into the mail.
Simple. Easy. Our direct mail response rates more than doubled and every competitor followed suit.
It seems like marketing 101. Don’t ask a lot of questions. Don’t make people start running numbers in their head. Make things easy and your customers will buy more of your product.
Amazon gets it. Their 1-Click purchase button is a marketing masterpiece.
But so many marketers have lost their way. They throw too many options at us. It’s virtually impossible, for example, to objectively compare cell phone plans between AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Heck, I have AT&T and can barely decipher my monthly bill.
What really perplexes me is shopping for lightbulbs. Believe me, I’m all for energy efficient new technology. But I feel that I need a Ph.D. in physics to buy bulbs. What, exactly, is a lumen? My local hardware store has bulbs offering 800 lumens, 900, 1,200, 1,600 plus many more in between.
There’s also a “K-Scale” on the package, with a bar that goes from yellow to blue. Well, silly, it turns out the “K” stands for Kelvin, which according to Wikipedia is a convenient measure of the color “temperature” of electromagnetic radiation. Duh.
And then there’s hours of operation. I get that 12,000 hours is longer than 10,000 hours. But how long is that exactly? Let’s see, there’s 365 days in a year, it gets dark say around 7 pm on average, sun comes up around 7ish, so that roughly 12 hours per day, hang on a minute… there’s a calculator app right here on my phone.
Seriously, there were three main lightbulb brands at my local hardware store. One, named Satco, appears to be run entirely by physicists. Their packaging is all about the numbers: wattage, lumens, Kelvin, lifetime hours of operation, annual energy costs. Very scientific.
GE, which has been selling lightbulbs for a long time, appears to have put the physicists and the marketers together. Their packaging is still heavy on numbers, but in terms that are easier to understand and intended to be more consumer-friendly. Instead of hours of operation, the bulb’s life was expressed in years, 7.1 to be exact, which sounds like a very long time. Until you realize it’s based on only three-hour days.
GE expressed the economics of energy efficiency both as an annual cost and also as the benefit of expected lifetime savings compared to traditional lightbulbs — which I don’t think you can legally buy anymore anyway.
And GE converted their color temperature scale from the hard, cold science of Kelvin to a somewhat subjective scale ranging from “subtle and reassuring” to “cozy and relaxing” to “comfortable and inviting,” to “fresh and energizing,” and to “strong and vibrant.”
While I appreciate how hard the marketing team must have worked to get that on the package, it actually confused me more than ever because they all sounded good to me.
Thankfully there was a third brand, Westpointe, which I’d never heard of in the context of lightbulbs. But they offered the lowest price, and the simplest message: soft white, instant on, fully dimmable and mercury-free.
They kept it simple, stupid. I bought two boxes.
Adam Snitzer is a revenue strategy expert and president of Peak Revenue Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies attract more, high-paying customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the company’s website at PeakRevenuePerformance.com.