Simple Business Lessons from the Brilliance of March Madness

The NCAA had its final game in the big tournament and The University of Kentucky took home the national championship. As the pageantry of another college basketball season came to an end and my team, the Kansas Jayhawks, lost the title, I realized something: Fans love March Madness.

Part of that obsession with college basketball, I think, comes from the the simplicity of the structure. Think about it: Sports fans gripe all the time about college football’s BCS, the standings, the different polls, the bowl game structure etc. because it is VERY complex, with many variables taken into consideration to get to a winner. At the end of every single college football season, there’s still a debate about what team is the real national champion. On the other hand, the NCAA tourney does it with bracket play, which determines a clear definitive winner. It’s simple, easy to follow along, and anybody (no matter how sports savvy) can get involved by simply filling out a bracket.

People LOVE the simple and easy things in life. Think about the times in which we are living. The Twitter generation is demanding that information be consumable in 140 characters or less. On this platform, what you say has to be simple. How about those YouTubers that have us trained that a video should be no more than three minutes long? Nothing too complicated here; just short, easy, and right to the point.

When I visited Las Vegas Market and more recently the ISPA Expo, it was fun listening to people tell me about their company’s new introductions and to see what kind of story they had built. Some stories required visual aids to make the point, and some required that you understand the history around the product to really appreciate the evolution of what you were seeing. For me, the best products had presentations that could be explained in under one minute. News flash for some of you: If your elevator speech requires 200 floors, you won’t be able to give it in most buildings, which means it’s probably not the best approach.

Simple sells. There is evidence of this truth all around us. Apple now has a $557.23 billion market cap due in part to one of the main pillars of the company: Products MUST be simple and intuitive. We are talking about electronics here, so of course they are very complex in design, but Apple made them easy and fun to use. I can’t get my iPad away from my seven-year-old son.

Are you failing like college football? Or, like college basketball have you taken something complex and made it easy for the consumer to connect with? Don’t get caught up in how cool your technology is, and make that part of your selling approach. The easier you can make your product or service to understand, the more success you will have in the market. The NCAA understands this and that’s why March Madness is a month long sports event that people don’t get tired of watching. It’s simple, fun, and easy to participate.

In the mattress industry, your story has to make it down a long chain. It has to be told by your internal audience, then to the retail sales associates, and ultimately to the consumer. What has the best chance of making an impact? Can your products be sold in under a minute? Tell me about your approach (in 140 characters or less) in the comments section below.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.

2 thoughts on “Simple Business Lessons from the Brilliance of March Madness

  1. Mark, you are spot on with this commentary. When I worked at the agency J. Walter Thompson (known as the father of branding), we would have clients fill out a postcard to help us develop the brand message. On the front of the postcard, they were to illustrate the brand. On the back of the postcard, they had to summarize the brand in that small space. Nothing clarifies your message, like having a small space in which to write it down!

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