It is my firm belief that nearly every situation in life, including business, can be tied to a scene from Seinfeld and/or The Princess Bride. One is a show famously about “nothing,” and the other is pretty much the exact opposite, a film labeled as a fantasy comedy adventure.
In the Seinfeld episode “The Alternate Side,” Jerry has his car stolen and must rent a car. He goes with Elaine to pick it up, and despite having a reservation, they have no car for him. An argument thus ensues over the meaning of the word “reservation.”
In The Princess Bride, one of the primary characters, Inigo Montoya (played by Mandy Patinkin) has but one purpose in life: avenging his father by finding and killing the six-fingered man who murdered him. Ever since he was a boy, he has rehearsed what he will say when he finds this six-fingered man: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Mean What You Say
In the Seinfeld example, there is a major problem with clarity of message. The rental car company advertises a service by which a person makes a reservation to rent a car, then comes to pick up said car expecting it to be there for them to drive. Somehow, the customer and company have very different definitions of the term “reservation.”
How many times have you seen a teaser for something in a social media post or a display ad, only to click on it and be taken to something that is clearly not what you were expecting? Frequently this is done intentionally, but plenty of times it is simply poor messaging by the company. Be crystal clear in your message and your call to action, or you could end up with alot of wasted spend on clicks and a lot of lost customers.
Say (Clearly) What You Mean
Contrast the rental car agent with Inigo Montoya. In just thirteen words, he greets the six-fingered man; introduces himself; states how he knows of the man, why he has tracked him down, and what will now become of him.
So often, you go to a company’s website and are assaulted with text. Not only is there too much of it, it’s filled with words and phrases that nobody uses in normal conversation. Marketing jargon.
People don’t want to go to a website and read paragraphs of text, and they certainly don’t want to have to do a Google search to decipher all the meaningless words that were used to try and sound impressive.
By the same token, people won’t respond to social media posts or display ads that take more than a split second to understand. With attention spans being shorter and shorter, the K.I.S.S. method is always wise in crafting a marketing message.
So what is the ultimate lesson from these examples? Simply put, in marketing, be an Inigo Montoya and not Seinfeld’s rental car agent. Words have meaning, and you really don’t need that many of them to get your point across (as long as you don’t try and change the definition of those words).