How to Get Clarity

Make marketing less confusing to you by telling a story. Your story is the main character. Read on to see the role you and your products play.

Today someone looking for marketing and branding help made the following observations about their business:

  1. “need a branding/marketing expert to help me clarify some things first
  2. “Don’t have the time or interest to do all the work myself”
  3. many moving parts – all different dimensions of creating a business”
  4. “I am running out of time trying to figure it all out

I’ve seen this before; digital marketing seems so confusing. The more you learn, the more confusing it gets. You think you need to do A before B. Or wait, C before A. Or you’re SOL.

But if you let it seem confusing to you, the result is being confusing to your audience.

It’s not that digital marketing or business itself isn’t complex as hell. It is. That’s partly because it changes so rapidly. It’s not possible to study digital marketing in college for this reason. It takes hundreds of forms and bleeds over into related disciplines – branding, design, tech, sales, advertising – in dozens of ways.

So, yes, there’s a lot to learn.

Yet at the same time, it’s very simple, in that your marketing is all based on one story which can be compressed into one message.

By making every part of your marketing fit that message, you get clear.

In fact, if you had to pick one word to describe the philosophy of marketing maven Donald Miller, author of Storybrand, it might be clarity

Over and over, clarity is his message. That means consistency, both verbally and visually. That doesn’t mean reduce it all to just a tagline though. Or just a positioning statement. That’s the lazy way to do positioning. 

A positioning formula (such, “we do x for y, using z approach/skill”) only gets you so far and only achieves so much clarity.

To clarify the value of what you’re selling, expand on your message by unfolding it into a story.


Donald breaks it down into 7 pieces:

  1. A character
  2. Has a problem
  3. And meets a guide
  4. Who gives them a plan
  5. And calls them to action
  6. That helps them avoid failure
  7. And ends in success

And then there’s a bonus benefit – the transformation that happens when you make it through these steps. Think of Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. He’d been through this story and came out a different person. Yes, Mark Hamill achieved gravitas.

Joseph Campbell, who advised George Lucas on the Star Wars concept, demonstrated that pattern Donald Miller identifies in Storybrand existed in prehistoric mythology all over the world. Same exact pattern.

Side question for you – who is the character? When our stone-age ancestors sat around the fire telling stories, who was the character?

The character is your client. The story you tell is about your client, not about you. You are the guide. And your product is the “special weapon”. We call ourselves Homo Sapiens but we’re really version 2 of Homo habilis – makers and users of tools.

Some of the most successful books and films let you identify with the main character(s) – even if they come from a different world, different gender, different period of time. I’m not speaking of art films which break convention to entertain the jaded or just the curious, but of the most popular mass-market dramas: Thelma & Louise, The Matrix, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, and yes, Star Wars. 

I’m not promising to make digital marketing simple. Nor do I advise “figuring out” your story before doing anything else. Your brand’s story is ever-evolving. Because problems change, what you do as a guide changes, etc. Pandemics come – and go.

But if you haven’t even started to figure it out, it’s really confusing to try to do anything else in marketing. One of the reasons case studies are the consensus go-to when it comes to prioritizing marketing decisions is that when they are done well, they tell your whole story – about your ideal client.

Take action. Tell your brand’s story in 10 sentences or less. Bonus if you can compress it to one sentence (this is the art of writing a tagline).

Let me know how it goes!

My best,