"Simplicity is the Final Achievement"

Frédéric Chopin, the Polish Romantic era composer, was a man who felt comfortable with his own musical style.

So comfortable, in fact, that he once played faultlessly for almost an hour in pitch dark when the salon’s lights were extinguished before a performance. The offer was made to re-light the lamps, but Chopin refused.

His performance was so affecting that Franz Liszt, Chopin’s great ‘frenemy’ who was in attendance that evening, conceded that Chopin was a “true poet” whose works could not be improved upon. High praise from Liszt, a man not always known for his humility.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” - Chopin

This mastery of Chopin’s medium came through extreme fastidiousness, dedication and experimentation.

Ultimately, it was through practice that he perfected his theory.

In this respect, there is much that we can learn from Chopin’s attitude to work as we consider marketing in an increasingly complex digital landscape.

The simplicity we yearn for must be earned – it is only after many iterations that we can develop our approach, our way of adapting this approach based on new information. Expecting this without experimentation is a doomed enterprise.

Our challenge, then, is to find a distinctive, genuine voice, capable of withstanding the test of time, within a time-starved arena. Something has to give.

This challenge can of course feel Sisyphean in the modern world, with its proliferation of portable devices and the overload of information at every turn. The temptation to be aggressive with our messaging or to change tack frequently is understandable; attention spans are at an all-time low and easy entertainment is easier to find than ever before.  

We are also perpetually granted new data on which to base our decisions, data that often contradict what we have seen elsewhere. The pressure for instant ROI and efficiencies add an extra burden for campaigns to "perform" instantaneously.

This is where Chopin’s words provide a useful guide. Overly complex or convoluted delivery in campaign messaging (or blog posts…) will inevitably be lost among the noise.

However, that is not to promote an Occam’s Razor approach to everything; the advertising campaigns that appear simplest are often the most complex when examined more closely. Simple for simple’s sake is not the answer.

In the context of the digital marketing world, we can focus on data and targeting to the detriment of our message. We may be able to target in a much more personalized way, but once we reach that person what do we plan to say?

The medium and the message must be in constant dialogue.

Just as mobile users should not be treated as simply ambulatory versions of their desktop selves, the differences between media such as Snapchat and Facebook are myriad.

Our messages should be cohesive across platforms, but adapted in form to take advantage of the benefits different platforms afford us. Maintaining this balance, collaborating across departments and agencies to deliver a truly integrated experience that resonates with the audience, should be our aim every time we launch a campaign.

Not an enviable task, but one that can be achieved through a patient approach, an inquisitive nature and a wide range of experiences across digital channels. It is a daunting challenge at times and the temptation is to stick to what we know, but early adopters of new media tend to reap the rewards.

Perhaps we will never quite be able to compile strategies in the dark like our friend Frédéric, but we should heed his advice regardless: it is only after playing a vast quantity of notes that effective simplicity can be earned, in our arena as in any other. 

Clark Boyd