There is always a lot of talk in advertising about propositions and how they need to be single-minded. The same can be said of communications – emails, DM packs, billboards, etc.

By default, communications should be single-minded if the proposition is. But they rarely are. This is one of the biggest issues facing those who write, art direct, design or create any of these communications. And it’s more of a problem in digital than in any other media or platform.

Why?

Well, in my experience the pressure is coming from the client – or via the account team who are instructed by the client. There may well be business reasons behind this pressure, but it shouldn’t be passed on, it should be absorbed and then discarded.

People have this strange idea that because an email is relatively cheap to send, they might as well pack in as many messages as they can. Which is okay if your communication is a newsletter – then it’s full of news and that’s significantly different to a communication. Or if it’s a catalogue email – similar to a newsletter but as the name suggests, these catalogue items to buy. Amazon sends those because they sell products.

There comes a time when all you want to do is tell people something. Here’s a similar example to something I’m working on:

What are we trying to do?
We’re asking people to fill in a short survey. If they do so they will be rewarded with an item worth £100. The call to action is: take the survey.

What does the client want?
To get people to fill in a survey. To then tell them when the next survey is due to be sent. To tell the recipients, in detail, what the gifts are, as well as linking from the email to a webpage that has details on the gifts. To remind them that the product they purchased, which triggered the email they’re now reading, is great and maybe they might want to write a review of it. And also, to ask recipients to recommend the product to a friend and then get a further incentive for doing so. And then to repeat all these messages over the course of four other emails.

Phew.

Nothing single-minded there.

What should they have done? Simple: Tell recipients that if they fill in a survey they will be given a free gift worth £100. Which is what we are trying to do.

That’s it. Nothing more. Once they’re at the survey, the rest of communication can be delivered. Even if we tell them now when the second survey will need to be filled it, no one will put that in their diary. That’s why we send them a follow-up email.

You know this. I know this. The account team know this. I suspect the client even knows it. But they can’t be seen to miss an opportunity to tell people more and more and more.

And by doing so, they’ve missed their opportunity.

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