Make more of your brand by doing less.

March 31, 2016  

It seems the goal of branding today is to be everywhere and do everything. The latest social platform? Better have a presence there. After all, if you aren’t constantly churning out content across every digital, social, mobile, and print channel, how will your audience ever get to know you?

The ongoing pressure to do everything and be everywhere (often with scant resources) can have a serious impact on brands. Sometimes, the opposite approach can be more powerful. By choosing to do less, your brand is heard more. Consider these examples:

Use a platform for a purpose it was never intended for.
Ad agency Boone Oakley shuttered its .com and built an entire site within YouTube. The resulting attention gave the agency a national spotlight (and likely earned it new business as well). Sometimes the unexpected alone can bring attention to a brand.

Kill a tactic to take a stand.
The University of Vermont swore off printed viewbooks (heresy!)—not because they weren’t effective, but because the institution was committed to being a good steward of the environment. The decision earned the school invaluable credibility in the minds of its most important audiences.

Censor yourself to create attention.
Taco Bell took a gamble by shutting down all its platforms to force users to just one place: a new app they had built. The result? The app jumped into the top 25 downloads in the Apple app store. This stunt not only garnered revenue, but fans and consumers loved it.

Close up shop when people are beating down the door.
That’s what REI chose to do on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year—sending a clear message to both employees and potential customers about the brand’s values. It takes a level of discipline and confidence to pull this off, but it creates a certain exclusivity, which brings brand loyalty to the forefront. (Remember, people want what they can’t have.)

TMI.

When your brand is trying to be simple and smart, too much information can derail your best efforts. There’s plenty of proof out there that doing less is good advice for almost every brand. Cases in point:

Hampton Inn’s headboard post-its.
They don’t make us think your brand voice is clever. They just make us wonder why you need to announce that the sheets are clean.

Every time a brand has asked us to “tell your story.”
A worse offense than constantly broadcasting half-baked content? Asking people to do the work for you. This Tumblr catalogs some of the most cringe-worthy.

Tinder’s mix of politics and dating.
The brand’s attempt to enter the political conversation with “Swipe the Vote” has elicited more ridicule than support.

There’s no single marketing playbook for brands to follow.

Each brand must weigh the pros and cons of various tactics, and evaluate them based on budget and resources. But the next time you rush to push out the newest content, or join the next flavor-of-the-week platform, remember—often, less is better.