Adopting an Essentialist Mindset To Communication Strategy


I don’t know about you, but I often find myself with a never-ending to-do list, and as a consequence find myself less productive at the end of the day. To assist, I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. My intention was to learn ways to help me focus on what really matters in both a personal and professional capacity.

Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:

McKeown captures the busy nature of my usual everyday behaviour brilliantly, stating that the overcrowded to-do list tends to result in “a millimeter of progress in a million directions.” Having read the book, I thought the thinking and recommendations could be applied to the field of communication strategy and could benefit us in developing our own, as well as our respective clients’, brands. When building a communication strategy for a client or oneself, we need to look at what our objectives are and how we will go about addressing them. Whether the focus is on creating brand awareness, building customer loyalty, or increasing sales, a question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are taking an essentialist approach? As McKeown states: “Essentialism: only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” Below I offer a breakdown of what I believe are some of the key elements in building a communication strategy. While the brief, budget, objectives, and outcomes can vary, I think the questions posed will challenge and help you.

Brand Objectives:

Brand objectives refer to what the brand aims to achieve. Are you clear on exactly what your or the client’s objectives are? Have you distilled them down to exactly what needs to achieve? All too often, we are confronted by an objectives list that looks very similar to my to-do list, and this results in reduced focus and can ultimately limit real progress as highlighted by McKeown.

Brand Identity:

Brand identity refers to the make-up or DNA of the brand. Key elements include the brand’s story, its product/service offering, its history, personality, and positioning. David Aaker, one of my favorite brand strategists, speaks about brand identity as the cornerstone of brand building. At the core of a brand, according to Aaker, is the brand essence i.e. the ‘soul of the brand’. In this vein, what is your brand essence? If you are working on a client’s brand do you understand what their brand essence is and are you actively integrating this into your brand and marketing strategies? In addition, is it single-minded enough to offer clear direction and create meaningful engagement at both an internal and external level?

Target Market:

A target market refers to the group of customers a brand is targeting and wish to build a relationship with. Who do you know who you want to speak to? Are you speaking to a niche target market or anyone? It’s often more effective to speak to fewer consumers and to rather focus on building a meaningful relationship. Drawing on principles of essentialism, it is important to have clarity and focus rather than casting the widest net possible when it comes to your audience/market.

Communication Channels:

This facet of communication strategy looks at how brands communicate with their target market(s) and the channels that are used. With a plethora of communication channels available, especially in the digital space, we need to relook at which platforms are the most important. Is your brand, for instance, on 1, 5, or 10 social media platforms? Depending on the size of your brand, audience, and budget, are you really yielding maximum exposure and engagement with your intended consumer? If not, scrap it! Spreading your brand across multiple platforms can dilute the message if not managed properly. This, in turn, damages your brand equity. Simply put, the more platforms the more managing you need to do. If you have the resources and this builds the brand then great. If not, reevaluate.

Message and Tonality:

The message is what you, as a brand, want to communicate with your intended customer – the tonality is how you say it. The message and tonality depend on your brand and what you aim to convey in relation to your offering. Your message should be as succinct as possible, and you should avoid wordiness at all cost. A great quote on brand messaging from Adam Kleinberg reiterates this:
“In the mind of the customer, you get to be one thing. One… You don’t get to be five things. You don’t get to be three. If you say you are three things to your customer, you are saying you are nothing. If you say you are three things that your competitors already say they are, you are saying you are less than nothing…”

Concluding Thoughts:

While the essentialist mindset that McKeown presents is by no means easy, I do believe that focusing on what really matters will channel our energy and passion thereby amplifying our progress and success.
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