S.U.P. Time to Focus on Simplistic Marketing


S.U.P. Time to Focus on Simplistic Marketing

TL,DR? - In Marketing, simplicity is effective. Strive for simplicity by selectively creating understandable, purposeful messages.

Picture Times Square. Media is thrown at the consumer in every possible direction. Even when the consumer escapes to their phone, online is cluttered with constant advertisements.

In a world where everyone is trying to outdo one another with brighter colors or bigger statements, sometimes a whisper is all that is needed. Sometimes the simple approach is the one that stands out the most.

While it is exciting to brainstorm complex masterpieces, sometimes simplicity is the best choice. When trying to be simple, think S.U.P.

Remember these effective yet simple advertising campaigns? All of these campaigns have messages that are Selective, Understanding, and Purposeful (S.U.P.).

Apple's Mac vs PC campaign is simplistic but effective.
SanDisk captures the capabilities of their product in this brilliant marketing campaign that is so elegantly simple. 
Lego has a simple and easily understood design showing the capabilities and inspirational qualities of the product.


Consumers have little time to care about everything on their social media or every blog post that comes their way. They are selective and marketers should be too.

Choose approaches to content wisely. Not every detail can fit in a blog. Choose information that is relatable, helpful, and digestible to the consumer. When writing, pick specific, descriptive, purposeful words that get the point across. Avoid passive voice at all costs to spark action in the reader.

Keep the reader interested by varying the sentence lengths. Numerous short sentences in a row can be disjointed and hard to follow, whereas long sentences lead to elaborate descriptions and invested readers. Find a balance between the two but make sure to refrain from repetitiveness.  

In order to be proud of the work created, constantly edit and restructure. Rome was not built in a day, and neither is quality content. Although the process itself is not simple, the task of tearing and picking apart and reworking content allows the consumer to fully understand the message.


When a message is simple, it is more believable and easier to understand.

The best writers can simplify a complex thought. Writers do not have to validate their intelligence by using large words or fancy phrases. When writing, it is recommended to write at a 7-8th grade level so that the information relates to a wider audience. Why spend the time, money, and resources on a marketing campaign if the consumer does not instantly understand the message?

Relieving the stress from a consumer’s busy day is part of a marketers job. Consumers prefer to expend as little brain power as possible when digesting information. (Maybe more people would read Charles Dickens if he did not try to cram every word from the dictionary into a single sentence.)

Blogger Amy Lynn Andrews wrote, “I appreciate simplicity in my own life. The more I’m online, the more complicated it feels. There’s just too much – too many graphics, too many apps, too many choices, too many ads, too many social media options. There’s too much vying for our attention. Simplicity makes life breathable.”


Everything marketers produce needs to create value for the customer or inspire action. Overloading the customer with stimulation and information is tempting, but also time wasting.

Constantly observe, listen, and respond to consumers so that the product is reflective of their wants. Only the best content and advice should be shared. Nothing has to be flashy, it just needs to tell a story with an objective.

Consumers are always on the go and their attention span continues to decrease. Quick updates are preferred. The consumer will skim or ignore content that makes them spend energy decoding a marketing message. A Forbes article stated that only about 16% of website visitors read every word on a page compared to the 79% of web users who scan the page for relevant content.  In fact, memes are popular sources of media because they get the point across instantly without any extra thought. Research from the CEB shows that simplifying the decision making process hooks a consumer rather than overloading them with elaborate and complex websites, ads, or sales copy.

Save the consumer’s time.

Do this by rewriting and rephrasing work at least three times ensuring every point is deliberate. Stay on track by asking these questions:

  • What value is being offered to consumers?
  • Is the information described in the most simplistic manner?
  • What can be done to further unclutter and simplify the information?
Simplistic marketing is sophisticated, to the point, and direct. 

In order to get in the “simple” mindset, look around the room and see if there are three things that would be easy to live without. Now do that with the brand and the campaign. What are things the content can do without?

Still not thinking “Simple?” Check to make sure the marketing campaign has a clean design and tells a compelling story.



Congratulations for spending the time to fully absorb this content! Though the spare three minutes could have been spent walking the dog, saying “hi” to local office celebrity, Mark, or browsing the web, this content will hopefully spark a surge to create simply and more effectively.


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Why Big Brands Are Turning To Small Agencies


Why Big Brands Are Turning To Small Agencies

    When I announced to the world that I was leaving Engauge/Moxie/Publicis Groupe in January 2014, I immediately had several job offers from agencies who wanted me to help them grow like I had Engauge.

    A friend since childhood (Joe Parrish) had spent much of his career working as a writer/creative at marketing agencies. Later in his life, he moved back to our hometown to help build his own creative shop. When he found out that I was leaving my last agency gig, he reached out to see if I would consider helping out his agency (The Variable). I met with his team on January 20, 2014 and, soon after, they signed an agreement to become the first agency partner for AgencySparks. 

    When I founded AgencySparks, it was based on a few key premises:

    1. Clients who want true expertise prefer specialist (usually smaller) marketing agencies rather than general agencies.
    2. Specialist agencies are better at producing wonderful work for clients than they are at developing business for themselves.

    Joe wrote a piece for The Drum entitled: Why big brands are increasingly putting small agencies on their radar, that I found so compelling, that I want to share it in its entirety (with his permission) here:

    Straight out of portfolio school, I went to a 30-person shop in Atlanta, GA and fell in love with advertising. The agency where I worked has since been sold, but at the time, it was amazing. We won tons of awards, did lots of great work and had a great time doing it. But because I was young and naive, I felt like I needed to move on. And so I did...too soon; moving all around the country to work at bigger shops on bigger brands. And I fell out of love with advertising.

    Six years ago, I took a long hard look at what made me happy, and I decided that I wanted to try to re-create the experience of that first job. So my family and I moved back to our hometown and I started my own agency. I wanted to get back to making a real difference for clients. I wanted to be nimble and take chances and have fun. And while I am incredibly biased, I think we have achieved all that and more.

    Small is the new big.

    I think there is a global sea change in the way clients want to deal with advertisers. And I think small agencies are poised to reap the rewards. Clients are looking for real relationships with their agency partners. They want to personally know the name on the door and know that their successes are mutually aligned. Small shops are generally more motivated to see their clients succeed because they are more invested in their business (and because failure is crippling.)

    Big ideas from small places.

    We’ve all heard about how technology has democratized the creative process. About how one person in a bedroom can make the movie that a huge studio used to create. I think that’s all a little overblown, but the reality (that has always been true) is that brilliant ideas come from small teams. Look at your own career. I guarantee you that your best work came from fewer people, not more. Big ideas come from small teams for a few reasons. The first is that ideas are fragile. They can easily be trampled on by too many feet. Great ideas need intimacy to get off the ground, before they are strong enough to survive the potshots of the public.

    The second reason is really an economic principle -- accountability. If you assign a project to everyone, no one will do it. The more people involved, the less likely anyone is to own it. To get great thinking, people need to sign their work. They need to know that they will be the ones standing up and presenting it. So they’re motivated to make it amazing.

    From Droga5 to 72andSunny to Anomaly, the adscape is full of businesses that, when they were small, completely transformed our business with brilliant thinking. (note: While those particular agencies have gotten big, they still operate “small” and continue to make us all jealous.)

    Spend smaller, think bigger.

    We’ve all worked at places where we threw money at problems. It sometimes worked. But it often didn’t. Clients are catching on. They are looking for optimization and cost-cutting. They are demanding that we measure twice and cut once. In advertising terms, that really means that we need to get our brand house in order before we spend a dime. We need to think hard, then spend smart. Smaller agencies can undeniably do this better than larger agencies. Many times, this is simply due to the Sunk Cost Fallacy: Because large shops have invested heavily in certain disciplines, they are predisposed to want to use them. Have a huge broadcast production department? Recommend broadcast. A huge search team? Recommend SEM. You get the point.

    Small agencies can generally be more execution agnostic in the beginning. Because their business models are built on coming up with the idea and the plan and partnering with best-in-class vendors for execution.

    Smaller assignments, bigger ROI.

    Clients are moving from AOR to ROI. That’s a reality we all must face. Projects, while damaging to larger agencies, are a boon to small agencies. There is a low barrier to entry for larger clients to try projects with smaller agencies. And generally speaking, the results are a win-win for all involved. Big clients see great ROI when they go outside of their AOR relationships to try projects with smaller shops. They get fresh, divergent thinking that institutional AOR’s would have never imagined. And the opportunity is for small agencies to grow those small test cases into larger, more meaningful engagements.

    The reason is that small shops are highly motivated to take on smaller projects. And they treat them with the importance clients think they should be assigned. If a big name client gave a retail POS assignment to their large agency, it would go directly to the C-team, and be pushed out as unceremoniously as possible. If that same POS assignment went to a 10 person shop, it would be celebrated and anguished over and delivered with passion, conviction and great thinking.

    Our industry is constantly changing. That is the one thing we can always know for certain. And there will likely always be room in the food chain for success at the holding company level, at the large independent level and at the small agency level. But I was recently at a gathering with a bunch of small agency owners, and realized we are a pretty like-minded bunch. So much is written about the big agencies making big noise. I just wanted to write a little bit about the role of the small agencies in the larger agency eco-system. Remember: all of those big shops started small and grew by doing great work for appreciative clients. Cheers to those agencies out there who are small in size but big in ambition.

    Joe Parrish is partner and chief creative officer at The Variable. He tweets at @JoeParrish.

    Thanks Joe for so eloquently writing what we have also been thinking about at AgencySparks for years!

    - Joe Koufman, Founder and CEO, AgencySparks

    Why Big Brands Are Turning To Small Agencies


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    Marketers Toolbox: Quick Sprout


    Marketers Toolbox: Quick Sprout

    What is Quick Sprout?

    A tool to increase web traffic.

    Why is this tool helpful?

    Quick Sprout helps grow website traffic which potentially generates more leads and revenue. The tool focuses on the likes and wants of the target market instead of just numbers.

    How is it used?

    Quick Sprout analyzes big data to improve traction and traffic users on a company website.

    The system connects with the business’ Google Analytics account to analyze the website’s data. Quick Sprout then alerts the user whenever a necessary change must be made in order to improve the site’s traffic numbers. Analyzing who is using the site and what they are doing on the site helps the company obtain a better feel for the needs and behaviors of their consumers.

    Who would benefit from using Quick Sprout?

    Any business with a website could benefit. A web presence is more important than ever. Websites act as a host for companies, harvesting all information - social, content, and updates alike. It's important to know who is using the website and why certain people are not.


    “Quick Sprout will always be free.”

    However, Quick Sprout does offer a “University” webinar training series. This focuses on teaching methods to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content creation, the conversion rate, email marketing strategies, amongst other offers. Reviews state that the usefulness of the program does not measure up to the price. The videos, however, are helpful for beginner marketers since they touch on everything website related.

    AgencySparks ignites meaningful connections for marketers that help drive business. Contact us for introductions. To receive the #MarketersToolbox weekly, click here to subscribe!


    AgencySparks ignites meaningful connections for marketers that help drive business. Contact us for introductions. To receive content updates from AgencySparks, click here to subscribe!
    A Guide to a Well-Toned Marketing Voice


    A Guide to a Well-Toned Marketing Voice

    An award winning book has a captivating story and interesting characters. A memorable conversation involves an intriguing conversation partner who tells fascinating stories and asks questions. A unique and successful brand does all of the above because they have a well developed voice that draws the audience in and keeps their attention.

    It seems simple enough to be “captivating” or hold a conversation, however, finding a brand voice that stands out enough to resonate with an audience is challenging. Voice is often given a low priority within a marketing “to do” list, when it should be crucial. Sometimes social media and marketing content creation is passed to an intern or inexperienced marketing team member who does not fully grasp the intentions of the company.

    Establishing a defined voice humanizes the brand. A written representation of the brand is essential since that is how customers frequently communicate with companies - so the brand voice must be clear.

    The voice of the brand is the personality or adjectives that most describe the brand. The tone is the style in which the voice is conveyed. They both go hand in hand.

    A brand’s voice must be...




    The process to construct a brand voice may require trial and error. Some use formulas of stories, songs, or even comedians for inspiration.

    Steps to develop brand voice:

    1. Outline Values

    Awareness of the values and clear goals of the company keeps content and voice consistent and truthful. Everything written should tie back to the brand’s defined purpose and what they want to accomplish (whether to inform, humor, educate, uplift, etc).

    AgencySparks narrowed down brand values based on a list of opposite words.

    From these values, construct a large list of adjectives that are opposites of one another. The team can then select which adjective is more like the brand. Having trouble coming up with the word list? No problem! Utilize the resources that surround the brand - employees, upper management, and consumers. Ask them to describe the values and then the brand in it’s entirety in 5 words or less. An outsider's perspective and feedback uncovers new and helpful insights about the brand.

    2. Analyze Audience

    A brand’s voice is meant to be unique, meaning, it will not likely please everyone. Cater to those who will care most - primarily customers.

    A way to further analyze the audience is to form persona descriptions and scenarios. Who and why are they reading the content? What are their needs and how is this content helping them achieve these needs?

    Not all content should solve the consumer’s issues. Content should vary depending on the audience and platform - this is where tone comes into play. For example, the AgencySparks blog has a professional vibe whereas the social media tone is more conversational. Both aim to inform and provide insights to marketers.

    A good analogy can be taken from music where different genres cater to different audiences. The same song can be sung with a drastically different tone despite consistent words. Consider remakes of classic hits and how they change audience and tone. As a marketer, assess what content the target market wants to see and provide them with just that.

    3. Assign Writers

    Written content frequently represents the brand in the consumer’s eyes. Keeping the content consistent and clear is of utmost importance. Assigning a small, efficient staff to produce content on a regular basis can ensure that the brand voice is unchanging. Over time, the consistency of voice will instill trust with followers and increase following.

    How unbearable is it when a different writer or director comes in and destroys the plot or character development in a movie series or show? When the new writer or director respects the style or universe, the change is less noticeable and more easily forgiven.

    If multiple people have their hands on content creation, keep a style guide to outline the dos and don’ts of the company. Vocabulary, jargon, and language should remain consistent across platforms.

    Proofreading is also crucial to ensure the voice and and tone remain true to the brand.

    4. Imagine Brand as Person

    Wendy's has a savage, sassy, fun brand voice that respects their current customers and deters haters.

    Define the voice as if it were a person in a conversation. No one wants to talk to a robot. Some brands, like Wendy’s, succeed in humanizing their brand by being snarky, sarcastic, and clever. This type of person would not be the ideal best friend, but someone entertaining to listen to and watch.

    Take a second to think about the brand’s likes and dislikes if it were a person. How would it talk during a conversation? Read posts out loud. If they match the image of the brand and the values, then post. If not, rewrite. Sometimes rewriting a phrase three different ways helps find the perfect wording.

    The brand’s identity should be defined by the values but the voice is how the brand expresses those beliefs.

    Comedians take up to ten years to find their “comedic voice.” Through trial and error, they figure out what works for their audience and represents them as a comic. Most of the time, the joke itself is not as funny, but it is the way the comic says the joke - the tone makes it hilarious.

    For marketers, you should swear if the audience and values align with that approach. Be humorous if it will resonate with the crowd. Find humor in little things. Tell a story people want to listen to and share with their friends. Be bold and clever. Don’t copy other brands’ success - form a unique voice. Be conversational. Or be business-like and straightforward. Want to connect emotionally with the target audience? Be empathetic! Or be cold and sassy. No matter what, be human, always.

    A helpful article with examples, questions, and guides to form the perfect marketing brand voice by Kevan Lee sighted a brilliant quote by Jay Baer, "[d]on’t just give your customers something to talk about, give them somebody to talk about."

    Humanize the brand so that the target market can relate and be interested in the stories being told. This will increase trust thus traffic and brand loyalty.

    Think the voice is already defined? Check by tracing through old blog content and media posts. If the company has changed over the past years and no longer upholds the same values, use the exercises in step one (ask consumers and employees to explain values to define characteristics/personality of the brand).


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    Marketers Toolbox: Siteliner


    Marketers Toolbox: Siteliner

    Maintaining a website as it grows is a time consuming task that takes away from more important pursuits.

    Thankfully, Siteliner is a one click answer to a full website diagnostic. Siteliner quickly analyzes the input URL to find broken links, duplicate content, determine page power and compare the site to statistics from other sites.


    Analyze up to 250 pages for free.With premium, analyze up to 25,000 pages. 1 page costs 1 credit which costs $0.01.

    URL content is easily made to help the marketer reach the target audience and increase engagement. 

    Siteliner makes it easy to quickly learn where a site can be improved without having to go through page by page.


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    Being An Empathetic Marketer Takes S.O.U.L.


    Being An Empathetic Marketer Takes S.O.U.L.

    In addition to having opposable thumbs, humans ability to be empathetic is a great asset. The mere fact two people can sit down, share, and relate to the feelings and struggles of one another is incredible, not to mention powerful. With that power comes responsibility.

    Too often brands take advantage of customers when attempting to be empathetic. The truth is, empathy is not meant to promote nor sell one’s product.

    Empathy is an emotional connection, that is, as Dr. Brené Brown states, “feeling with people.” Marketers should leverage empathy by putting the consumer’s best interests at heart, feeling their concerns, and seeking a solution that is beneficial to their everyday life.

    Thirst for instant results from social media and data can cloud the judgement of marketers. Campaigns and promotions need to be a part of a brand’s lifestyle, not a strategy to trick consumers. Consumers should never feel as if something is being done to them, but instead for them.

    Believe in good. By helping and understanding others and trying to lift them up, the man in the commercial’s life is better. This brand does not push a product but instead promotes being empathetic. As an insurance company, the brand needs to be there for it’s clients so, in return, the commercial promotes being there for one another. It is a lifestyle, not a strategy. If businesses help consumers and those around them, they will prosper partially because the world is better for it.

    What does it mean to have S.O.U.L?



    Thinking like a marketer and thinking like a consumer are completely different mindsets. With instant data and social media, the emotional aspect of marketing can be forgotten. Goals become more about the reach and impression percentage rather than the emotional reach and the impactful impression. When there is an angle behind the advertising, a consumer can sense it and lose trust. With an empathetic approach, every action is for the benefit of the consumer - which in turn benefits the brand.

    The best solutions come from stepping away from one’s own life and into another person’s shoes. No more ulterior motives or marketing mindsets! When a marketer thinks, behaves, and observes the world from the consumer’s perspective, it opens up new insights.


    By taking in how people within a target market behave, respond, and act on a day to day basis, it is easier to cater to their needs. Empathetic marketing is bringing a product or service into a consumer’s life because they NEED it or it will advance their lifestyle in some way.

    How do marketers know what consumers need? By interacting with them and noticing behaviors. Observing the content that moves consumers to take action will influence future content creation and campaign ideas.

    Observation helps pinpoint the target audience. Once a brand knows exactly who is interested, they can develop personas which are in depth outlines of the influences, behaviors, habits, emotions, and goals of the target audience. Personas aid the brand in developing a better, more impactful message that resonates with the clientele.

    Ultimately, narrowing in on the customers who are interested in the brand and how they think will build deeper emotional connections.


    Observation is a key factor in understanding the perspective of the consumer, but having a conversation to hear them out is taking it a step further. Listen to the needs of the consumer. Listen to not only respond, but to fully understand. Gather how the consumer currently feels, what they WANT to feel, and how the brand can make that difference.

    Brand loyalty increases when a consumer has an emotional attachment to the brand or it’s message. When a brand takes the time to discover the issues that are important to consumers, their struggles, their sentiments, then brands can produce solutions to relieve those issues, which helps form deeper bonds.


    An ad, campaign, or message is memorable because it strikes a chord within the audience. An emotional impression will last and be shared far longer than a meaningless plug.

    S.O.U.L. in Action

    Food is not the first thing that comes to mind when attempting to be empathetic. This grocery store does a phenomenal job advertising what food can do for people. Families love one another and typically spend time together on the holidays.

    EDEKA stepped away from advertising their product and stepped into the consumer’s shoes. They observed how families behave towards one another and understood that sometimes the holidays call for busy times. The commercial made an emotional impact by bringing everyone happily together with food. The product was not the focal point. The campaign was successful because it focused on the consumer’s feelings and happiness.


    AgencySparks ignites meaningful connections for marketers that help drive business. Contact us for introductions. To receive content updates from AgencySparks, click here to subscribe!
    How to form the Perfect Team from the Masterminds behind Google, Pixar, Apple, and Tesla


    How to form the Perfect Team from the Masterminds behind Google, Pixar, Apple, and Tesla

    The founders from Google, Tesla, Apple, and Pixar walk into a bar...what do they all have in common? Successful companies, yes, but, more importantly, fantastic teams.

    Forming a cohesive team seems simple enough, yet, why do companies struggle to maintain employees and effective strategies? There is no question companies like Google, Pixar, Apple, and Tesla have reached momentous success in their industries. How did they do it?

    A company is made up of individuals. How those individuals work with one another and are led determines the success of a company.


    Who is hired matters.

    Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., firmly believed in investing time into “good” people. Settling for mediocrity was not an option. Jobs hired people based on passion and endurance, not experience. Passion is what drives people and, more importantly, drives consumers to purchase. He knew hiring like-minded people who were all “A-team” material would lead to cohesiveness and quality work.

    Google hires employees in the same way calling it “googliness.” They rate a person on their passion, personality, and whether or not they fit into the mold that is Google. Each person brings a different skillset to the table that ultimately forms the “organism,” or team.

    A balance between these personality traits leads to a perfect team:

    1. Results-oriented

    2. Relationship-focused

    3. Rule follower

    4. Innovative thinker

    5. Pragmatic petitioner

    At both of these companies, a loaded resume may be impressive, but is ultimately surpassed by passion and personality.


    First and foremost, the leader must be passionate.

    Simon Sinek, an author and marketing industry thought leader, states that a leader leads by example. When a leader demonstrates care and purpose into every detail of work, employees feel inclined to replicate that attitude. If the boss is invested, her/his team is invested.

    Humans want to make an impact and have meaning in their lives. When everyone, including the executive, is working willingly towards an ultimate goal, the company is like a fine tuned machine.

    Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Tesla, is a motivator for his company.


    As a leader or chief marketer in a company, sometimes decisions are made based on what is right or best for the company or employees. This may mean self-sacrifice (including in some cases, one’s own job) for the achievement of the overall goal.

    If employees see their superiors sacrificing, these acts of service give the workers a sense of purpose, duty, and trust in the company.


    Trust goes both ways. The employee needs to trust the company will take care of them. The company needs to trust the work ethic and dedication of the employee.

    Elon Musk believes in having trust in his workers to be self motivated. He hires an efficient team to run themselves. Similar to Jobs, Musk hires a balance of personalities that are all “A-team” material. Since they each are considered to be part of the “A-team,” they expect the best from one another, hold each other accountable, and enjoy working together.

    Musk also believes there must be employee trust in the company. Employees need to have a sense of trust so that they are willing to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes. When a company commits to people, people commit to the company - it is a two-way investment.

    Pixar/Disney emphasize the importance of equality, representation, and creative flow in their marketing, brainstorming sessions, and leadership.


    Team members must feel valued. Their work reflects that of upper management. The actions, beliefs, and thoughts of leaders trickle down to affect the productivity of the entire team.

    Pixar understands this. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, ensures that, regardless of title, during staff meetings all opinions are equal regardless of title/level. They practice this by holding meetings at a wide table with people of all job titles present. This method creates a collaborative environment where people brainstorm together and the flow of creativity or innovation is not stunted by a title or position.

    A company should be run by ideas, not a singular individual. Jobs encouraged others to challenge and prove him wrong.

    Jobs, Musk, and Catmull have all admitted to surrounding themselves with brighter, more accomplished people who offer stronger and better ideas than their own. Any sort of entitlement needs to be cast away in order to build the best teams and companies.


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