Too Little/Too Much

Driving up across on the Pennsylvania Turnpike yesterday, I spotted an odd billboard. The name of the business in large letters, then a photograph, and in much smaller letters:

Denial Center


As I drove closer, my brain began to assemble the information into something more coherent. The two people in the photo had bright, wide smiles. The “i” was actually a “t.” Not a Denial Center at all: a Dental Center.

It reminded me of a photo my friend Joan Garry snapped on a recent trip to Greensboro, North Carolina.

You would have no idea what goes on in this office…unless you already knew what goes on in this office. (And in that case, you wouldn’t need the sign.)

The billboard in Pennsylvania offers too little information; the shop window in North Carolina too much—and none of it particularly helpful.

Business communications can easily veer between these extremes, too.

Do you speak in shorthand? Don’t assume the reader or listener has the same amount of information you do. You don’t have to rehash the entire history of a project, but specific details—maybe about why you made key choices—make your story memorable. Yes, it’s great that doctor has a Dental Center. But we can get clean teeth almost anywhere; why should we go there?

Alternatively, do you bury your main message in layers of extraneous information? The only word in that window that relates in any way to the business conducted here is “floss.” Yes, it’s another Denial Dental office.

Sing? Dance? Travel? How could these words possibly convince me to entrust my teeth to the doctor in residence? I suppose you could make a case for using them in the context of a longer piece—a speech or an article—but here they add nothing to the reader’s understanding. A complete waste of marketing space.

These dentists need to find the “just right”—the Goldilocks option. Any suggestions?

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