Keeping It Simple

There’s a moving company out there that recently caught my eye. I’m not planning a move nor is anyone I know, so moving companies aren’t currently top of mind. But I’ve noted the company’s trucks on more than one occasion and heard great things about the service. You probably have, too, and you surely remember its name. Its vehicle’s emblazoned with the simple moniker: Two Men and a Truck.

There’s something to be said for keeping things simple. Stripping brands and products down to the bare bones and becoming a master at what you do. Companies like Two Men and a Truck aren’t remotely convoluted, nor are their products and services or their brand identities. Quite simply, what you see is what you get.

By the same token, there are countless organizations that try to be too many things to too many people. General Motors comes to mind. The company offers countless models and brands in an effort to appeal to every consumer, lifestyle, and budget, but there’s very little difference between any of them. The Chevy Avalanche is virtually identical to the Cadillac Escalade. The Pontiac Solstice is the same as the Saturn Sky. The redundancies are practically endless.

Even the tires found on many of these cars are overextended. All-season radials, for example, are OK in the snow, summer, and rain. But the effort to please all parties has only weakened the product; all-season radials don’t really excel under any circumstances.

This trend has been eating away at online media properties for years. Sites, technology companies, even ad networks are constantly reinventing themselves, expanding their offerings, and even venturing into new arenas entirely. On the one hand, this increases the amount of opportunities available to media buyers. When you have a good existing relationship with a site rep or vendor, it’s certainly nice to know that same person can provide the latest in online video or behavioral targeting technology.

On the other hand, as in GM’s case, the originality (and dare I say, quality) of some of these companies’ products suffers because of this pursuit of mass popularity. This brings up the question: will you gain more from partnering with the big players or patronizing the companies that continue to keep things simple?

I favor the smaller, more specialized organizations: the Web’s mom-and-pop shops. Their offerings are certainly limited, but they tend to do them better than others who only dabble in their field. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of these smaller firms over the years; with their ultra-specialized products, small but targeted audience, and stellar customer service, they deliver what the larger players can’t.

Because these companies are small, the risk involved is minor as well (there’s only so much you can invest with a site that has a fraction of the big guys’ impressions). The potential benefits, however, can knock the others out of the park.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to partner with small firms such as these rarely arises. Our clients largely dictate where they want to be online. You can bet they’ll lean toward the Yahoos and iVillages of the online world before they give a smaller site a chance.

Giving them a chance, of course, is the second part of this dilemma. It’s always safer and easier to go with a major property you’ve worked with in the past than to allocate the bulk of your ad dollars to little-known specialists.

The ideal solution is often a combination of both larger, more diverse companies and small groups that can fulfill any need you might have to target a niche audience. This approach ensures skittish clients and those with preconceived campaign ideas are appeased, while allowing you, the media strategist, to enhance the campaign and improve its chances of achieving your goals. You might even be able to convince your clients of the upside of simplified, specialized companies in the process.

Think of companies like GM and Two Men and a Truck the next time you’re in a position to choose between a company with vast interests and one that has stuck to a simple service model. Would you prefer a specialist with a unique approach, or do you immediately think of the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”? Regardless of your campaign objectives and client’s initial impression, don’t be too quick to rule out the guys with the simplest approach. It’s quite likely they’ll be the ones who end up driving your success.

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