"What Would Winona Want?" Here’s the guest post I wrote earlier this year for the American Marketing Association on the importance of “bringing the prospect into the room” in messaging.
Pssst! Someone is missing from our messaging meetings.
Not Marissa. She’s really busy this week; start without her.
Not Mike. He’s under his headphones; let him be.
The missing person is our prospect.
Prospect, singular, not prospects, plural, or (ugh) target audience. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created - nothing.”
So! An individual! A person, with pain, aspirations, suspicions and hope, someone who could be any age, race or gender, but let’s call “her” “Winona,” because using a real name begins a real conversation, and that name invokes Winona Ryder, who, let’s face it, still has it.
While we’re at it, let’s punch the pretense out of “ideation sessions” and call them “brainstorms.”
Winona should attend these brainstorms - not physically, fun as that would be - but virtually. One proven tool is research, quantitative and qualitative. (A creative guy who loves research? Call Ripley!) If there’s no time or budget - too often the case - then Winona’s voice can be represented via a scientific innovation I call “best guess.”
• When leading brainstorms, I push a process that allows the group to “channel” Winona, to “hear” what she has to say before and afterbeing exposed to proposed messaging. It’s like a conference-room-sized Ouija board, and, weirdly, it works.
• When participating in brainstorms, I turn over hard copies of creative briefs (old joke: they’re neither), sketch a cartoon face, and ask, “What would she say?” I’m thinking Winona. But it could be Woodrow. Or Wanda. Or Wang.
By running our ideas by them, even hypothetically, we make our messages more relevent, more authentic, and, praise Odin, less complex.
Not quite buying that? Then listen to other Real Authors, and something you can buy — a great book, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn. It’s gold throughout, but here’s the money quote:
“Complexity is a coward’s way out. There is nothing simple about simplicity, and achieving it requires empathizing (by perceiving others’ needs and expectations), distilling (by reducing to its essence the substance of one’s offer) and clarifying (by making the offer easier to understand and use).”
Hmmm. That’s a lot of parentheses for a paragraph about simplicity. But by emphasizing empathy, the authors empower. Our job as message strategists, I believe, is not to make our product or service understandable. It’s to make our prospect feel understood.
Look: Winona is smiling at that.
To engage Walt Jaschek for a prospect-focused messaging session, call or text 314-479-1966, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow @WaltNow, or ask Winona to ask him to call you.