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Less is More

Originally published: 06.01.21 by Pete Grasso

In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress put forth a motion to declare independence from Great Britain. While the delegates went back to their respective states for direction on how to vote, a committee was formed to draft a formal declaration in preparation for an affirmative vote.

Among the delegates on that committee were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and a quiet Virginian named Thomas Jefferson. Franklin, the most famous and prolific writer in the group, refused to author the document as he vowed “to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body.”

Adams, who feared his fiery reputation would be an obstacle toward ratification of the document if he was the chief author, nominated Jefferson to write the draft. Reluctantly, Jefferson agreed.

When he finished, the committee itself had only a few minor edits. But then, after the Congress reconvened on July 2 and voted in favor of independence, the real editing took place.

Jefferson was dismayed as, one-by-one, members of Congress made their own remarks and suggestions to the document. Franklin, who for this very reason refused to author it himself, turned to Jefferson to console him with this story:

“One of my friends, an apprentice hatter, had decided to open a shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words: ‘John Thompson, Hatter, Makes and Sells Hats for Ready Money,’ with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments.

“The first man he showed it to thought the word ‘hatter’ was superfluous because it was followed by the words ‘makes hats.’ Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“The next friend observed that the word ‘makes’ might as well be omitted, because the customers would not care who made the hats, as long as they were good ones. Thompson agreed and struck it out.

“A third friend suggested eliminating ‘for ready money’ because none of the local merchants sold on credit. Again, Thompson bowed to the will of the majority, and now had a sign which said, ‘John Thompson Sells Hats.’

“‘Sells hats?’ said his next friend, ‘why, nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word?’ Again, poor Thompson conceded.

“Moments later the word ‘Hats’ went into oblivion when another friend pointed out that there was one painted on the board. So, he was left with a sign that said: ‘John Thompson’ beneath the painted hat.”

It may not have been of much comfort to Jefferson at the time, but he was known to relay this story later in life. What Franklin was trying to do was illustrate how everyone has their own opinion and the more people you show something to, the more edits you will receive.

If you look at this parable from Franklin in a different light, however, you could come away with a different — and, perhaps, more valuable — lesson: Less is more.

A sign that says ‘John Thompson’ beneath an image of a hat is simple but conveys all the pertinent information. The same can be said for your own advertising, specifically when it comes to your fleet.

It’s not necessary for contractors to list every service they provide on the sides of their trucks. Marketing-savvy contractors opt instead for bold, simplistic designs aimed at catching the attention of potential customers.

Only the most relevant information is needed, as well as appreciated, by the viewer.

Simply look at the slate of winners and honorees in this year’s Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest. These trucks aren’t cluttered — they’re attractive, bold designs that tell you everything you need to know about the company.

Most of the time, your fleet vehicle is being recognized by a potential customer that is driving or a passenger in their own vehicle, so your brand must be quickly identifiable in addition to your contact information.

All your services, products and anything else your company might do — leave that for your website. When it comes to creating a winning, eye-catching design, simply remember: Less is more!


About Pete Grasso

Pete is the former editor of HVACR Business magazine. He has spent his career working in and with trade media, both as a public relations practitioner and as an editor. He gained a great deal of expertise in the B2B arena, within large and medium sized advertising agencies. Be sure to follow Pete on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn!


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