My wife’s an art director.
So she’d often go abroad on shoots.
This was good for me.
When the kids were small, it meant I had them to myself.
And we could do all the things we couldn’t do when Mum was there.
Like healthy eating.
We didn’t have to do that.
One time I said to them “Okay, Mum’s not here so you can eat whatever you want. What do you want?”
My little boy said “I want Twiglets and strawberry ice cream.”
I said “Okay, which do you want first?”
He said “I want them together.”
I said “Are you sure? It might not taste nice.”
He said “You said I could have whatever I wanted.”
I said “Okay, fair enough.”
And I gave him a bowl of strawberry ice cream with Twiglets sticking out of it.
He picked one up and stuck it into his mouth and shut his eyes.
Then he opened his eyes and looked puzzled.
Something wasn’t right.
These were his two favourite things: Marmite-flavoured Twiglets and strawberry ice cream.
If they tasted great on their own, they must taste double-fabulous together.
But somehow it wasn’t happening.
In fact they tasted worse together than they did separately.
How could that be?
That didn’t make sense.
This was my son learning what lots of marketing people still haven’t learned.
More is less.
It’s called a zero-sum game.
Put simply, you can’t have more than 100%.
It’s like a glass that’s full of liquid.
Drop something in, and the same amount of liquid overflows out.
It’s just displacement.
When you add salty to sweet you don’t get 200% taste.
You get something that is 50% salty, 50% sweet.
But it’s always only 100%
You can’t add something without taking away something.
The Philosopher Isaiah Berlin talks about “Positive and Negative Freedoms”.
Positive Freedoms are freedoms ‘to do’ something.
Negative Freedoms are freedoms ‘from’ something.
The problem is, the more of one sort of freedom you have, the less of the other freedom you have.
For instance you can increase the Positive Freedom for everyone TO carry guns.
But then you decrease everyone’s Negative Freedom FROM fear.
Again, it’s a zero sum game.
The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.
That’s why propositions are supposed to be single-minded.
Because, that way, you get 100% of your media spend concentrated on the main message.
Whereas with a complicated proposition you dilute and fragment your message.
Less important points don’t add to the communication.
They detract from the most important point.
That’s what the single-minded proposition is all about.
That’s why we need people to make the effort to decide what is absolutely essential.
Not just people who think of what else they can include.
Welding a JCB to a Ferrari doesn’t make a machine that can dig roads at 200mph.
It makes something that can’t do either job properly.
Strawberry ice cream and Twiglets work better on separate plates.
Separate messages work better in separate ads.