The word has a negative connotation, though totally undeserved. Without conflict we would have no growth or change in drama, and in turn no cinema, theater, or literature. As much as we claim to hate conflict in the day-to-day grind, and go to great lengths to avoid it, conflict certainly adds color to our life. Life would be boring, static, and totally routine without it. The conflict between what is and what should be is what motivates change; therefore conflict is a great source of innovation. It is at the intersection of passion and resolve, where it tests our loyalty and courage. In the process we learn something new, kill old or weak ideas, and allow the strong ones to come into existence. In short, without conflict, if anything would get done, it would not likely be worth doing.
It’s important to note here that conflict shouldn’t be viewed as right-or-wrong, good versus evil, or anything like that. It is usually improper to attribute a positive or negative value to either of the dichotomies that are in conflict, and even more so to view them as dichotomies in the first place. The eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow made a career out of studying exceptional individuals, those who consistently exhibited traits that he referred to as “self-actualization.” One of these traits was what he called “resolution of dichotomies.” These people, the best and brightest, saw dichotomies as inseparable parts of a whole. Does this sound familiar? It is the basis of Taoism, an ancient philosophical, spiritual, and religious way of thinking. It’s the foundation of one of the most iconic Eastern symbols, the yin and yang Maybe these folks are on to something. Striking a balance can be challenging in your marketing and content strategy, but it is crucial.
Niche v Broad
The explosive influence of the Internet has made it easy for our society to become a “jack of all trades, master of none” culture due to the surplus of information available at our fingertips. Our attention spans have shortened while our thirst for knowledge has increased. This exposed a lot of once obscure interests, hobbies, fields of study, etc. to the world. Global connectivity allows even the most esoteric curiosities to be indulged.
This has had an influence on content strategy. There is an obvious draw towards a broad approach. After all, it seems logical to appeal to as many people as possible. The problem here is that your content risks becoming too vague and unappealing to detail-starved surfers. In other words, broad approaches have a wide reach, but a poor grasp. There is simply nothing to capture the interest of your audience; nothing to differentiate yourself from other sites. On the other hand, if you are too narrow in your approach, you will wind up appealing to a small percentage of the population and it may in fact have an alienating effect on a larger audience.
One example of an entity that has managed to perfectly balance this conflict is Wikipedia. They have an incredibly broad approach to their content by virtue of being an encyclopedia, but their user-generated content approach results in far more specificity than could have been accomplished through their own means. We should refrain from thinking of this only in terms of content. Balancing a niche/broad business strategy is equally important.
Think of a company that offers car washes, detailing, and sells and installs aftermarket automotive accessories. What type of marketing strategy should be executed? Should the company sell the idea of being a “one stop shop for all cosmetic automotive needs?” That isn’t necessarily a bad approach, but the car wash market is so saturated (no pun intended) that success with this approach would be a result of aggressive advertising, promotional pricing, and/or having a good location. As an alternative, imagine the owner/operator evaluated his/her skillset and identified that they have the best interior detailing in their region. This is something specific that can be marketed, and just the niche that this company can fill without having to invest excessively into a marketing, advertising, or promotional pricing campaign. They can still offer the other services, and should, but this should not detract from their niche strategy. Their time, energy, and focus should spent developing their business to masterfully provide for the demand they had either found or created in the market.
Simple v Complex
Small is the new big. We often feel this tendency to “go big” conceptually or from a design standpoint so as to stand out or differentiate ourselves from our competitors. To quote Insivia graphic designer Brian Johnson, “subtlety is a lost art form.” There may have been a time and place where “more” was an effective strategy, but not in the era of Internet slang such as “TLDL” (too long, didn’t read). These days, economy is key, and as the saying goes, less is more. Simple designs are often seen as more elegant, and elegance is high value. The word “elegance” means beauty, but it also infers a practical application, evoking such qualities as craftsmanship, consistency, and versatility. Apple is a perfect example of this; the quintessential manifestation and personification of elegance. The intrinsic value of the brand is staggering. This is not a coincidence.
This conflict may be best resolved through synthesis: simple and complex. On the surface, this might seem contradictory or even preposterous, but the truth of the matter is that a substance that evokes characteristics of both richness and economy is hard – really hard – to create. The philosopher, mathematician, and writer Pascal once wrote in a postscript to a colleague something along the lines of, “sorry, I didn’t have time to write you a shorter letter.” The best approach is to set high standards and inspire your team to exceed them, and unlike Pascal, take the time to make it short and sweet. Brevity is next to godliness.
Quality v Quantity
There is often a trade-off between quality and quantity, so which is best? Well, it depends. There are cut and dry examples, albeit few and far between, that prove one is superior to the other in specific circumstances. As a general rule, as with our other examples, it’s important to strike a balance between the two. If you are manufacturing bicycle helmets, the quality better be a priority, but if you cannot produce sufficient quantities to reach an economy of scale, you should evaluate your processes.
In terms of content, think of a person – we all have one or more in our life – who talks too much. We generally come to the conclusion that “too much” is a result of low quality, low interest, or low engagement material that fails to consistently capture our interest – or worse – totally bores us. If this person spoke frequently, but was always engaging, interesting, and full of useful information, would we claim they spoke “too much?” In the case of the person who fits our definition of one who speaks too much, we stop listening. On the other hand, consider the person that says too little. These people also end up being ignored, but if they speak just enough, we listen.
P.T. Barnum was fond of saying, “always leave them wanting more,” and many different types of entertainers have adopted this philosophy. Finding the sweet spot, that precise point in where your audience waits with baited breath for your content is just as important as discovering how to refine a manufacturing process that is both cost efficient and able to produce the level or quality that is sufficient. Until you do, don’t be the person that talks too much any more than the person who says nothing at all. The result of either extreme is the same.
Again, it’s easy to look at this from the perspective of content or product manufacturing, but there are wider applications. Think of this in terms of your overall business or marketing strategy. Contact us for more information, tips on how to implement these principles into the design of your webpage, your marketing/content strategy, or to let us know what you think.