Swearingen Communications Insights

Fresh ideas, seasoned perspectives, and solid marketing strategies to keep you grounded and growing.


Communicating for Decision Simplicity

From blue jeans to smart phones to insurance, consumers are overwhelmed with options.

No matter what we are in the market for, we embrace brands that make it easier for us to decide.  We want just enough information to guide us.  It must be relevant to our circumstances. And it must be easy to grasp.

We want “decision simplicity.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, decision simplicity in the purchase process is the #1 reason why consumers are likely to buy your product, do so repeatedly, and recommend it to others.

So what contributes to decision simplicity?

From a content standpoint, decision simplicity focuses on the “WIFM” factor.  That’s code for “What’s in it for me?”  Smart marketers lead by addressing what is foremost in the consumer’s heart and mind.  They answer the “why should I care?” emotional side.  Only then do they back up with a description of features and attributes.

From a style standpoint, decision simplicity comes from keeping it short and simple. Consumers don’t want to work hard to understand something.  They appreciate direct, simple information that imparts things they can apply immediately.

In this digital age, I’m advising clients to use shorter words, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs.  Web visitors read more of a page when it has shorter paragraphs, according to research by the Poynter Institute.  Even the venerable Wall Street Journal averages 4.8 characters per word.  (Source: Public Relations Society writing specialist, Ann Wylie).

Mark Twain once wrote in a letter to a 12 year-old boy:  “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words, and brief sentences.  That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way.  Stick to it; and don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.”

Mark Twain, and Aristotle  before him, understood that the most persuasive communications use common, everyday words and a simple style.  Their wisdom is even more relevant in this digital age.