I had just reached the tender age of 6 when my family immigrated to this country. Fresh off the boat, I knew nothing about the U.S. I spoke zero English and refused to eat the gross food that was so unfamiliar to me.

My food memories are many:

At school, I was horrified at the bowl of green, watery mush that they called split pea soup. That prompted the immediate memorization of my first, full English phrase: “I don’t want this!”

Another day, I remember seeing a kid in my class put a giant, white, puffy thing in his mouth…and feeling confused and baffled at what I had witnessed. That was because I had never before in my life seen a marshmallow.

Then somewhere along the line, I ate a Dorito. And I remember thinking it was the most delicious thing I had ever had.

Back in Iran in the 70’s, the only cheesy, crunchy snack we had were cheese curls. The Dorito was a completely new experience. Of course, I had no idea what it was called or how to even say it. So I couldn’t tell my mom, who was equally challenged in the ways of the West, what to buy.

But I loved that Dorito and knew I had to get my hands on my own bag.

That fortuitous day came when in the parking lot on our way to the supermarket, I saw on the ground what appeared to be a torn corner of a bag of Doritos. There was enough to show part of the logo and the name.

I picked that piece of trash up like it was a long, lost treasure and promptly delivered it to my mother.

“This is it! This is the snack I want! Can you get this?? I neeed this!!” Not in English, of course. But the pleadings of children sound the same in any language.

I got my wish. And I still buy Doritos to this day. So when I read about a new advertising campaign from Doritos that omitted all use of the name and the logo, I felt like I was watching a kid shove a giant, white, puffy thing in his mouth all over again.

Confused and baffled.

They claimed that people hate being “advertised” to these days and this campaign is the anti-ad. So they replaced their logo with triangles, and asked consumers to take pictures of themselves with a triangle snapchat filter, share, like, etc.

In other words, in order to overcome the perceived distaste of their audience for being overtly advertised to, they’ve created a new advertisement that they’re hoping their audience won’t notice is actually an advertisement, and will even join them in doing some of that icky advertising they hate so much.

Got it.

I’m sure the big expensive ad agency that came up with this gimmi…er… campaign is patting themselves on the back for being so clever and so different. I would’ve charged them much less money and given them 50 different ways they could leverage their powerful brand, not obscure it, and get more than just likes and shares.

Yes...your audience is oversubscribed and fatigued with the thousands of marketing messages pelted at them every minute. It’s a problem.

But the answer isn’t to out-pelt your competitors with a louder, more gimmicky message.

Nor is the answer to ignore the power of visual stimuli by replacing your logo and creating a non-message hoping that will get their attention, when in reality, it will just confuse them.

I’m glad they weren’t this clever when I was 6.

Message confusion can plague all business owners and marketers no matter how big or small.

When we work with clients, the problem is rarely their book design or their logo or their design. Those are often symptoms. The problem is the lack of focus in their message. Which then causes them to jump from one message to another, trying this and that, and all the while confusing their market and losing their attention. But once the message is clear, the design and marketing pieces naturally come together.

What is a good marketing message anyway? A good marketing message simply communicates the outcome your market is looking for, or the problem they’re trying to solve. That’s it. It doesn’t brag on and on about your product or service. And it doesn’t try to be clever. It simply talks to your market about things they care about.

So take a minute to evaluate your marketing messages. List all the outcomes and problems your market needs solved, incorporate them into your marketing, and watch how much more engaged they will become.

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