Marketing and acting share two particular qualities in common: specificity, and simplicity. Less is more is a phrase often thrown around both industries but doesn’t really give us any actionable insight. As both an actor and marketer, I take “less is more” to mean scraping off superfluous actions until what’s remaining is an impactful message. In acting, this is the process of taking out any excess movement or emotion from a performance. In marketing and branding, it’s a matter of taking out any visual clutter or excess “fluff,” until you reach a message that resonates with your audience, meaning it’s understandable, visceral, and engaging.
Specificity and Simplicity in Acting
Specificity is something every great actor possesses. When watching Robert De Niro in the 1976 film, Taxi Driver, every single acting choice he makes is specific. While saying a line or performing an action, he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and how he wants the other character to feel. He doesn’t just say, “You talkin’ to me?”–He uses a specific tone and delivery to give meaning to what he’s saying. What you don’t see him do is scream the line for dramatic effect or flail his arms in ways that don’t add value to the scene. Rather, he specifically knows how he wants the other character to feel (in this case he’s talking to himself), and how he’s going to achieve that emotional response.
One of the most sought-after acting teachers in New York, Mr. Charlie Sandlan, Executive Director and Senior Acting teacher at The Maggie Flanigan Studio, tells all of his students this: “Simplicity is everything in acting.” But, while the best acting is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To be simple in acting means to eliminate any pedestrian clutter, extraneous energy and straining, so all that is left is ease. The right combination of specificity and simplicity is what makes an acting performance so engaging that you can’t take your eyes off the screen.
Specificity and Simplicity in Marketing
Apple’s advertising works because the creators only incorporate what is absolutely needed. All clutter is removed so that the truth–in this case the lightweight and portable nature of the MacBook Air–stands front and center. Just like when De Niro delivers a line, all the ad contains is what is needed, and not an ounce more.
Anthropologie’s site consists of black letters on white, with just a couple of different fonts. Nothing to see here, right? Wrong. Anthropologie.com is one of the most specific and seemingly simple sites on the web, but it offers much more than you see at first glance.
With Meisner’s quote in mind, notice that when you scroll down, on the bottom right of the site a little hot air balloon will populate. Clicking on the hot air balloon takes you up to the top of the page. This is specific and simple branding at its finest–a unique approach replaces what could have just as easily been clunky copy or generic up and down arrows. You might also notice that the search bar on the top left is a paintbrush swipe of teal. Visual cues like these tell users what they can expect from the brand’s personality. Just like De Niro’s acting choices, Anthropologie’s choice to add color to the site only where needed helps to leave the audience enlightened and intrigued.
Final Point and Examples
The last point I’d like to make here is that specificity and simplicity aren’t meant to confine your marketing creativity. Looking at Netwave’s Delicious Orchards Apple Fest 2015 campaign, we see some extraordinary design and imagination. Many colors and concepts are used, but everything makes sense and serves a purpose. Nothing is in the poster that doesn’t help convey the excitement of Apple Fest.
Meryl Streep plays some outlandish characters with a lot of physical choices, but her performance is still simple because those are the choices she made after all the excess choices were removed. So many aspects are going on, but they are specific and are present for precise reasons.
For a few more examples of simple and specific marketing, take a look at how Netwave has incorporated both elements into client work below. If you like what you see and want us to help turn your next ad campaign into a blockbuster, give us a shout!