Dont Tell Them What You Are Not

Posted On: Nov 24, 2021    Written by: Abe

Don’t Tell Them What You’re Not


Why do some businesses say what they are not?


Walking through town recently, I came across a great, well-stocked little art supplies store. But the name of the shop had me puzzled.

‘not just art supplies.’


My first thought was “Well, what else are they? What else could they sell that would be complementary to but different from art supplies?”

(It turns out they also stock games, puzzles, socks, and a range of T2 teas.)


Keep The Message Clear


I spent the next few minutes wondering why it is that some businesses choose names or slogans that say what they are not or what they are ‘more than', rather than what they are.


‘More than travel.’

‘Not just fishing.’

‘More than just financial planning.’


I’m sure you’ve seen others.


I’m no neuroscientist, but I am fascinated with branding and marketing and I’ve recently been reading about how the human brain makes decisions.

Our brains are constantly looking for ways to save energy. When faced with making a decision that requires less thinking vs one that requires it to process and think in greater detail, your brain will generally opt for the easier option. It’s how you’re wired.


Make The Choice Easy


A 2011 TED Talk from Sheena Lyengar explores this idea further by unpacking ‘choice overload.’

Sheena explains an experiment in a US store that sold 348 different types of jam. (That’s a lot of jam!) 

Her team set up tasting booths with 24 different jams in one and 6 in another.

In a nutshell, ‘people were at least six times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they encountered 6 than if they encountered 24.’


On the surface, it may appear that giving customers a huge choice is a win for them.

But if they need to think too hard about their purchasing decision, the customer is actually less likely to make a purchase.


Sixth Dimension Digital Production?


I think it’s the same with a business name, slogan, or marketing campaign.

If the potential customer has to think too deeply about what the business sells, how it will solve their problem, or what’s in it for them, then the message won’t have the impact it might have had if it were clear and simple.


When I started my business in 1998, one of the early business names I considered was ‘Sixth Dimension Digital Production’.

Aside from being a mouthful when answering the phone, the name wasn’t overly clear as to what problem the business solved for my clients - supplying voice overs and audio production to help their advertising stand out.

So, I settled on the slightly less complicated but hopefully clearer ‘Abe’s Audio.’



Businesses that make it easy for customers to know what they do and are clear about how they’ll help solve a problem get a head start.

The customer uses less cognitive energy thinking about their options, and in turn, will consider purchasing from that business.


The obvious exceptions are mega-brands like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Uber who have invested huge sums into marketing over a long time.

This has led to high consumer awareness, and as such, these brands have become part of everyday language. 


Some smaller businesses have also become iconic with seemingly unrelated names to the products they sell.

(For example, The Red Grasshopper in Ulverstone is well known for its delicious pizzas. The owners have been building this brand for 20+ years!)


But for the rest of us, I think we would do well to make the consumer’s choice easy by keeping the message clear and telling them what we are.

Tell customers what you are
(Look closely for the Red Grasshopper. No, they don’t sell colored insects!)

Share this post

Other Posts