Posted by Dan Greenwald

If you Google “uncomplicate your life” you’ll get over 2,200,000 results; change the search to “simplify your life” you get 11,100,000. These numbers suggest a yearning for an easier way, but also that most believe the answer to “complicated” is to simplify.  But is this really true?

Take the desire to lose weight. The solution should be simple: eat less, exercise more. And yet according to the CDC, more than one third of U.S. adults are obese (35.7%). If it’s so simple then how can you explain these numbers?


The answer lies not in the simplicity of the steps, but in understanding the motivation for taking the journey.

Ask people who have successfully lost 25+ pounds what actually motivated them and you’ll find the answers most often fall into one of these categories:

  • Their wedding
  • Their class reunion
  • A recent break-up
  • A new relationship
  • A significant health scare

So losing weight is not about following simple steps. It’s not about simply wanting to be thin. There’s something deeper going on (exactly what that is, is another discussion).

Understanding psychological motivation turns out to be critical to solving complicated problems. The same is true for complicated marketing problems (and the backbone of our B2Me approach). Slim-Fast was acutely aware of this when they launched one of their most successful print ads ever. The answer to “Do you need to lose a little weight before your wedding?” was a resounding YES.


Just about every marketer says they want to simplify their message. But here’s the thing: a straight shot means nothing if it hits the wrong target.

Take for example the jabillion ad campaigns designed to stop teen smoking. For decades these highly creative ads have failed to make a dent in the problem. In fact many of them have backfired actually increasing the number of teen smokers! Why? Because these ad strategies ignored the essential psychological and cultural dynamics of teens: among other things the ads appear to stimulate the rebellious nature of youth, making them more interested in tempting fate.

So it wasn’t a matter of the message being unclear; they were clearly scary as hell. The problem lay in the lack of a true understanding of teens – both psychologically and culturally.

For what its worth, I believe the answer lies in a strategy that understands how to influence teens: their friends. If their peers think smoking is totally uncool that’s some powerful medicine. Even if they THINK their standing with friends will be damaged by smoking I think it’ll be a more powerful deterrent than some disease that’s too far away to seem real.

The point is by uncomplicating the psychology of your target and understanding what motivates them you have a gaping hole to drive that simple messaging through.

So what’s the opposite of Complicated? Understanding.


It’s not just a matter of simplifying the maze, you need the right kind of cheese waiting at the end.

Topics: B2Me, Strategy, Copywriting