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  • Writer's pictureAvivit Fisher

The case against "being clever" in marketing

"Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be' - she always called me Elwood - 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me."

Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey

This is one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. I like it for it's simple wisdom that you can apply to life in general, but also to marketing in particular. Specifically, how you represent yourself on your website. When I do my research, I visit many websites of mine and my clients' competition. I see many things I like, many things I really like and some things that could be better. When I look at a website I analyze several things:

  1. Content

  2. Design

  3. Navigation

  4. Calls to action

Through my research, I have discovered an interesting thing. Looking and sounding clever can be counterproductive for your sale. I am not talking about the information itself, which needs to be as intelligent as possible. I am talking about adopting a clever persona and displaying it with words and design in a way that distracts from your actual message.

What I mean by that, is that your visual or written "shctick" is serving as a crutch and clouds the clarity of what you are saying. In addition to that, your visitor gets tired of seeing and reading it. The experience of visiting your website stops being about their needs and becomes your personal exhibition of cleverness.

So what really works?

Being clear. Define what it is you want to say and say it in the simplest words possible. You can definitely add your signature elements to design and writing elements. It is fine, just don't make it all about those elements.

Being pleasant. Elwood P. Dowd was correct in preferring to be pleasant, because communicating with a pleasant person is always a positive experience. That is not always the case with a person who is concerned with being clever. So keep your design and writing pleasant to the eye, simple and direct.

Being authentic. To be honest, I am a little tired of hearing about authenticity. It has become a schtick in itself. But there is no way around it. You need to be yourself, because if you adopt a certain style or a persona, you will have to live in it and cultivate it, which is much harder. And besides that, people will see through that eventually. So define who you are and adjust your business brand to that instead of the other way around.

Remember, your website is not your digital business card. It's your sales tool and your customer's needs should be met in its content and design.


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