Sometimes, less is more.

Overcommit. Overpromise.
Overwhelm (in the negative sense).

It is a natural inclination that “above and beyond” is the best approach — both in everyday life and in marketing. By nature, humans want to be everything to everyone and embrace a “go big or go home” mentality.

Simplicity, however, is sometimes the solution.

I’ve been heard telling clients that we can do a lot of things to support their marketing goals, but that we likely only need to do a few things to reach their marketing goals. The easy, and fun, part of our jobs is brainstorming what could be done. The hard, and beautiful, part of our jobs is determining what should be done.

This philosophy stood true when we set out to help launch a new Zoetis U.S. Cattle brand. The complexities of the ask existed, no doubt. How do you elicit emotion and resonate deeply with seemingly different audiences — beef ranchers and dairy producers alike? How do you unite a large portfolio of products under one cohesive brand while also being true to a corporate brand? How do you stand out among a crowded marketplace with competitors barking at your heels?

We rallied around a simple and impactful idea: Zoetis, like its customers, is born of an ancient bond and two-way relationship with cattle — to provide for them as they provide for us.

The next challenge was bringing it to the market. Simplicity was our friend for a few reasons:

First, we didn’t want to complicate the beautiful strategy and creative. I fondly remember our strategist saying: “Now, don’t muck it up.”

Second, we didn’t have an infinite budget. Besides, I don’t think any client ever said: “Can you spend more than necessary to accomplish this ask?”

And, third, we had to get into the market quickly. Again, a client rarely ask: “How long can you take?”

When you step back and think about it, we never really have endless amounts of time or money, and we never want to overcomplicate things. Often, when we celebrate our best work, it is our best because it is beautifully simple, focused and effective.


Here are a few tips to make sure you’re not being too superfluous and you’re focusing on the right things:

1. Identify one goal.

It is hard to boil things down. How often do you hear people in a meeting say “Yes, and … ” or “We can’t forget about … ”? It is critical to identify one focused goal. If you and your team can easily define your singular objective, you are more likely to rally around and achieve it. Our focused goal for the Zoetis U.S. Cattle brand was to tell the story, which translated to a digital KPI of “watch the video.” We built our whole launch plan around it.

2. Editing is key.

I’m not talking about editing copy here (although that is important). I’m talking about editing your plan. As a team, we built an extensive launch plan with ideas across every possible channel to every possible audience. Then, we challenged ourselves to edit that plan. We drew a line on our digital whiteboard of ideas, and we pulled things “below the line” that weren’t needed for launch. That allowed us, and the client, to be very focused. We put a lot of weight on telling the story beautifully to inspire, and that meant prioritizing a photo and video shoot and developing several video assets.

3. Progress, not perfection.

Sometimes we all get overwhelmed (there’s that word again) by the enormity of a project and the vast opportunity to make it big and make it perfect. Sometimes that drive to do everything perfectly leads to paralyzation, or churn. It can become hard to get things live and in-market when we’re collectively focused on making it perfect, testing the messages and fine-tuning the creative. We work with our teams and our clients to embrace a “progress, not perfection” mindset. Our scrum master often reminds the team: “The best way to get ahead is to get started.” We look for ways to get started and then analyze, learn and optimize.

4. You can always do more later.

When you’re working on a large campaign or a project with lots of visibility within an organization, it behooves you to get it started, show quick wins and prove the concept. Then, you can build champions for it. When we launched the Zoetis U.S. Cattle brand, we didn’t do everything out of the gate. We focused on what needed to happen. The second it went live, the internal teams at Zoetis started asking for more — more to help them tell the story and more to help them embrace the brand. We quickly developed a folder for them to use during on-farm meetings. It was truly a Field of Dreams moment — if you build it, they will come.

The next time you dig into a project, ask yourself: “Can we do less — better?”

About the Author

Laurie Underwood, director, Public Relations, has a holistic, multi-channel approach to communications that stays firmly rooted in addressing strategic business needs. Having grown up on a dairy farm in central Wisconsin, she earned her degree from the University of Wisconsin’s journalism school. Laurie has extensive experience on major ag brands like Zoetis, Pfizer Animal Health and Corteva Agriscience. She has also worked on the client side, launching a nutrient management and equipment company.