Complexity, Your Product, and Your Messaging

by Heather Hughes on December 6, 2012

Complexity and Confusion

I wholly agree with this statement from Brian Proffit in his article regarding complexity of the private cloud:

“… IT managers are generally not the type of people who like to feel stupid”

Except that I would add, nobody, and I mean nobody, likes to feel stupid!

Brian’s article also asserts that if what should be a straight-forward part of your solution is so technically complicated that you have to have a tutoring session to explain it, then you’ve got a problem. I also concur. And, if your technology solution is so complex that it can only be explained in incredibly complex terms, then it’s probably easy to defeat in the marketplace. It’s probably brittle, as in weak. (I love the term brittle because it clearly shows the flip side of carefully constructed yet overly complex solutions. Marc Strohlein, author of The Energized Enterprise, used the term a lot when I worked for him.)

If there is one thing technical professionals and consumers all want, it’s simplicity.  There’s a reason why the old problem/solution marketing formula works. People want simple solutions to their complex problems.

Now, I realize that there are different levels of simplicity for different products and services. Simple does not necessarily mean lacking in depth or specificity. But, if you can’t explain how your product solves a problem in a straightforward manner, then you’ve either got a weak product or weak messaging.

Nobody likes to feel stupid. If your product can only be explained in incredibly complicated terms, then you’ve got a problem. If your product could be explained in simple terms, but isn’t today, then you’ve got an opportunity. Give me a call.


A Complex Experience with a Seemingly Simple Product
I have been wearing Nike running shoes for 20-some-odd-years. I recently visited my Nike Outlet for a specific type of shoe. I didn’t know the model name or number. I just knew what I wanted from visual memory and feel. I hadn’t loved the most recent shoe I ran in, the heel cushion was too stiff. I wanted to go back to my previous shoe.

I didn’t see what I wanted so I tried to explain it to the sales guy. First, he was quick to correct my name for the insole; it was “Bowerman” not “Bower”. Next, he asked me several questions about the cushion in the heel and toe and spouted off a bunch of technical options for each. His knowledge was impressive! Which did I want? I admitted to him that I had no idea. I told him I just knew I wanted air in the heel and the toe with a soft cushion in the heel. Then, he showed me about five different types of shoes. Pretty soon I had two other people trying to help, asking me more questions and reeling off several model numbers and names. On the one hand, I was impressed with all of this help. On the other hand, I was confused and, well, felt stupid. How could I not know exactly what cushion technology I wanted after 20-some-odd years of running in Nikes? Maybe if I took a tutorial I’d get it.

None of the shoes presented to me looked or felt like my old shoes. I never realized that there were so many options. After what I think was my lengthiest visit ever to a Nike Outlet, I left the store without a new pair. Yesterday I wore those favorite, old, beat up shoes. I really need to get online and do a search. I’ll find a code on the shoe and enter it into that simple, empty search box.


Photo credit:; copyright: kulich

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