In Praise of Brevity

I think it all started with email. It became easy, fast and cheap to send a message. So the inevitable happened - information and the number of messages people are sent exploded (note that I did not say the number they received).

As a marketer, your job is to make your message, regardless of the medium, be one of the many that actually gets through.

I have noticed an interesting screening mechanism that people use - the length of the message. If the message is short they read it. If it is long, they do not.

Look at business books. The length has dropped to about 200-250 pages in order to be saleable. People no longer think they get more value if a book is a 1000 page tome.

Instant messaging is a hot phenomenon, especially with younger people who have grown up in the age of uber technology and information overload.

And Twitter's rampant success with a maximum of 140 characters is remarkable. We can all learn from Twitter; it can teach us to keep it short. I advocate that every marketer should sign up for Twitter and try sending 20-30 Tweets. It is good training on how to get a message across in less words.

Cut the message length and increase the impact. Less is more.


  • Fazal Siddiqi said

    Nice & brief post. I also tend to screen emails on its length, specially the emails sent to my personal account. Moreover, I agree that Generation Y like brief messages and read. The length of advertising messages would vary for varied product categories. Less is indeed more for low-involvement categories, however, high-involvement categories generally require longer copy. What do you think?

  • George Clegg said

    This is a point that all of us should take to heart. Today's world seems to be filled with a constant bombardment of messages from TV, e-mail, instant messaging, cell phones, sms, etc. This has created a serious time stress in most of us - a feeling that we can't spend quality time on anything because we have too many things to do. The natural reaction is to scan messages for clues to the content. Concise messages make this process easier, raising the perceived value of the information by playing to our sense of urgency. There will always be a place for more detailed information, however, that is not likely how you will open a new door today. My sense is that we must craft concise, pointed communications that raise enough interest to get the reader to want more. If we can do that there is an opportunity to provide a link to more in depth information. Personality types also play a part in how a person receives and values information. Therefore if we know the intended recipient we can tailor a message to their preference. If it is a generic message going to a group of varying personalities, the trick will be to be brief while providing enough information for the detail types. Finally, if you think about it, the sender stands to benefit from a huge productivity gain by reducing the size and complexity of the message. After all, it takes a lot less time to send a Tweet than to craft a full page letter. As long as the short format message is appropriate for the communication type, I'd say we all win.

  • Danielle said

    Twitter participation is indeed an interesting experience - you realize how very hard it actually is to express yourself using only 140 characters. Some argue that this and SMS will be the death of real writing - the appearance now of "text message novellas" is a grim sign. I think there is a time for being succinct, but also a time for being long-winded and explaining thoroughly. It depends on the medium and the audience.

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