Cute and Clever, or Clear?

There are two billboards within a mile or so of one another. Both advertise eye care. Sort of.

One company’s billboard uses the headline, “We focus on you.” Cute? Not really.

The other company has the word “First” in its name. So their headline? “We put your eye care first.” Get it?

Neither headline is very memorable. And neither tells you why they’re the right choice. In fact, they’re both trying, in somewhat lame fashion, to say exactly the same thing.

Clever — or what passes for clever — is often the enemy of clarity. When a company lacks a strong, unique position, they often fall back on cute.

There are a couple of problems with this. First and most obvious, those “clever” headlines don’t give consumers a reason to choose one over the other.

Prospects need a reason to choose you. A hook. Something to remember you by. Something different. A benefit only you can offer. A thing they can only get from you.

Being cute without being clear about why you’re the best choice just makes you forgettable. You’re not distinctive. You’re one of many.

That brings us to the second problem. Neither of those headlines above is actually clever. They’re certainly not funny enough to make either provider stand out.

And there’s the problem. A really, truly clever campaign can help you overcome the lack of a strong position. You’re easier to remember because you actually made yourself memorable. Think of Allstate and “Mayhem,” or Progressive and Flo, or Farmers and their “seen a thing or two” and jingle.

Being clear about the “why you” question is hard enough. Being clever in the process is really tricky. But doing both at the same time is where the money is.

So if you or the creative firm you work with are trying to come up with clever or witty messaging, ask yourself a couple of questions. First, is that messaging clear about what you do and why you’re better? Second, is it really, truly clever in a way that sticks — or only mildly so, like a moderately cute play on words?

If you can do both, that’s where marketing moves the needle. But if you can only be one, choose clarity. Because no one ever made money being confusing…or boring.