Simplify Ruthlessly

Simplify Ruthlessly

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak,” the renowned

August Light, Hans Hofmann (1957) credit: Wikiart

abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann is credited with saying.  I am not an artist, well not of the visual type, although I’m assured by my artistic friends and The Wall Street Journal  that indeed Abstract Expressionism is the discipline of simplicity – I’m not sure I get it.

But I do get that simpler is better. When we are simple in our communication, our words and actions speak louder and are heard better. All the time, every time. No exceptions. 

At Double Forte we work hard to keep things simple. “But Lee, isn’t simple easy?” you might ask. No. Being simple and simplifying is the hardest discipline in communication and marketing to exercise consistently. Human nature is to expand, to fill up the white board with lots of “great ideas,” to imagine that the 17th tactic will generate an incredible breakthrough in results. 

The best results come from killing off the myriad great ideas that won’t break through, that won’t communicate because they’re complicated or they complicate the message. Less, truly is more. 

Too often in marketing and public relations people confuse activity with impact. Busy-ness doesn’t count. Only impact counts. 

That is why we don’t like to start a program or a planning process without understanding with ultimate clarity of purpose. With that clarity we drive clarity into the message and into the plan to deliver that message. Without it, we might devise an incredibly fabulous plan of activities dependent upon one another with messages that won’t deliver. Simplify.

Here’s a simple rule: if your message doesn’t “land” or your activity doesn’t inspire an action you have failed.

So start any planning process with being simple as your guide. 

However, human nature being what it is, ideas and tangents have a way of creeping into plans. So, the last step in the planning and messaging process is to review everything with an incredibly critical eye to simplicity: is the plan as simple as it possibly can be to achieve the results we want? Adjust accordingly.

Why? Because simple plans — crystal clear messages, well-defined audiences, concrete examples, a defined market, specific milestones – will ALWAYS deliver more efficiently (read with more impact, more action) than complicated ones. Every single time. 

We have so many things we could do, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication – Leonardo da Vinci

So now’s your time to get out the red pen. (Am I the only one left with a collection of red pens? I prefer the Pentel RSVP Med. if you wanted to know.)


6 Steps To Simplify For Impact

  1. Can you say with confidence and clarity who you are and your company is? If yes, proceed.
  2. Can you say in one simple sentence why you matter? If yes, proceed.
  3. Are you doing everything you can to focus on fewer channels and fewer messages so that you can break through the constant noise around you? If yes, proceed. If no, what to remove? Where to double down? 
  4. Does every tactic deliver a crystal clear message? If yes, proceed. If no, delete or revise.
  5. Does every tactic tie to a strategy? If yes, proceed. If no, delete.
  6. Is every message a simple sentence? If yes, proceed. If no, start editing: don’t stop until you’ve got it. 

You  must be ruthlessly simple. 

Do less, more often. Use simple sentences with real words. Focus on who matters most, and then go out one more rung on the bulls-eye, not five rungs. 

Everything you do speaks, so let everything you do speak well for you. 


– Lee