Short on time? We’ll call you.

    Leave your details and we’ll get straight back to you.

    Brevity is Heavenly

    July 11, 2022

    I founded my company Heavenly 19 years ago for two reasons. I love ideas and the energy they create when shared. Firstly to our clients who commission us to cook up ideas for them, then ultimately to the audiences who experience them in the wider world. And secondly because of the metaphorical pat on the head from our clients when they appreciate the work we do. Ideas people love that validation.

    We operate broadly in the branding space, but the term is so elastic it covers much of what most modern companies need to do these days. It’s so intrinsic to everything. From attracting investors, hiring great people, selling product and telling the world what you do.

    You could say that branding deserves a better name.

    Branding has changed a lot over the years. From the 60’s when everyone wanted a logo, to the 80’s when corporate identity became a thing, to today when actions are more important than words, cause and conscience are critical, and social media gives consumers the power to answer back.

    Brands have also got better at branding. Partly because the gig economy has created a workforce of talented people who have broken free from the big marketing services networks and can now collaborate more nimbly, more quickly and cost efficiently than ever before. Which means that the months-long, $1m rebrand project is so old-fashioned as to be corporate suicide. Why are you spending all that money tidying up your logo when you could be improving the service you offer to me your consumer?

    “You could say that branding deserves a better name.”

    At Heavenly, our epiphany moment was a recognition of this shift in the marketing sector and the commoditization of many aspects of branding. And a realization that what we loved most was the least likely thing to ever be commoditized – or become a victim of machine learning or AI. Ideas.

    And, especially what we describe as ‘generous’ idea. Ideas that you can do a lot with. Ideas that inspire not only messaging and marketing, but also commercial impact, customer experience and culture. And ideas that do something good for the world, improving our society for the better. Ideas that keep on giving, in both senses of the phrase.

    So we work with people, and in parts of the world, who get that a great idea can make all the difference. And that great branding is more than glossy design. Starting in London, this meant going west – first to Cardiff in Wales, then to New York City and California.

    And because ideas are at the heart of our proposition, we love participating in their success wherever we can. So, alongside straightforward consultancy fees, we sometimes explore look at performance-based incentives and revenue shares, or equity, especially if we click with an early-stage company that we think is going places.

    We work with all sorts of businesses, from start-ups to corporates and non-profits, in categories including tech, sport, media, professional services and real estate. And, as an independent company, we’re agile enough to handle everything from a quick workshop to a long-term relationship.

    I watched a brilliant documentary on Vice called the Third Industrial Revolution where a clever guy called Jeremy Rifkin talks about the main challenges facing the world today and realized I could retrofit many of our projects into the areas he was talking about: IoT, data, Smart Cities, the changing face of work, ageing and renewables. Which made me feel really strategic, as though our portfolio of clients had been assembled as a result of a masterplan – rather than serendipity.

    We’re just lucky enough to be involved in some really cool stuff right now.

    You can click here to see some of our latest and greatest.

    I really love my job.

    In this piece, I want to talk about brevity. In doing what we do, we spend a lot of time getting inside consumers’ heads. And for sure, there’s a disinterested, impatient world out there. Which makes us advocate that successful branding is about landing an idea rapidly, in a charming and imagination-capturing way.

    There’s a few things happening in the world that make me believe that brevity is super-valuable these days.

    There’s a proliferation of stuff competing for our rapidly-diminishing attention. As well as the choice vs share of voice challenge. And media companies, especially the socially-minded ones, creating new tricks to engage us.



    The Overload of Things.

    Some stats for you.

    There’s lots of brands out there. Around 500,000 acknowledged as ‘mainstream brands’ worldwide.

    It can’t be just me that’s overwhelmed by the choice in Wholefoods.

    In 2007 there were 121m websites. Today there are 1.8bn.

    In 2010 there were 125m companies in the world. Now there are 200m+. In the UK, 50,000 more start-ups launch vs each previous year. And it’s about eightfold more than this in the US.

    And of course, there’s more ads, messaging, content, social media shares, photos, posts. Science Daily estimates that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past 24 months.

    Unsurprisingly, this puts pressure on our level of attentiveness.


    Sorry, what?

    It’s well-documented that attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Microsoft currently puts the human average at 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. And mobile ad firm Jampp has this figure declining at a rate of 88% each year.

    A friend of mine in the UK so used to contactless payment was telling me how uptight he got having to pay for something using chip and pin, just because it took a few more seconds (let’s not even mention the humble cheque, if that’s still even a thing). And online, 40% of people will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

    Impatience is the new normal.

    Smart marketers are cottoning on to this and re-imagining formats to mirror this increasing appetite for urgency.


    The shift to short.

    Fox, NBC and Youtube have introduced six-second ads.

    Intros to music tracks, the bit before the singing starts, have reduced from 20 seconds to around 5 seconds over the past thirty years so they can hook listeners quicker.

    There’s a spate of media businesses that specialize in short-form. From Bloomberg’s QuickTake, Twitter and TikTok of course, and great services like TheSkimm. And micro magazines are springing up everywhere too.

    In my line of work, the most intriguing opportunities are in vocal and haptic branding. How does my brand speak to me and what does my brand feel like to the touch – both very exciting new dimensions to explore. And both by-products of consumer impatience. Many of our clients recognise that the conventional website will (perhaps sooner than we think) be replaced by speech-based experiences, as prospective clients for example ask Alexa to find them a branding agency…

    So I’m advocating that brevity is essential if brand-owners want to penetrate this data-rich, complex world.


    Doing brevity well.

    It isn’t enough just to be brief. You have to capture people’s imaginations too. At Heavenly, we call this the ‘7-second sell’: how to communicate an idea to someone within the average human attention span. While making it Likeable, Ownable, Applicable, Farmable, and Shareable (or ‘LOAFS’ for short – more of which another time).

    Francis Bacon put it well. Writing in the olden days to James I about the proposed union of England and Scotland very elegantly said that “it will always be a warning to me to seek rather to excite your judgement briefly that to inform it tediously”. Even though he then rattled on for a further thousand pages, he was well-intentioned.

    Clever marketing people realize that the better the expression of an idea, the more sharable it is. And the more people that share it, the less they need to spend promoting it. And the more authentically it is received, not being communicated via old-fashioned, paid-for media.

    It’s about engaging people. Creating little smiles in the mind, or pennydrop moments as we like to say at Heavenly.

    A few years ago, when KFC ran out of chicken, they rearranged the letters in their logo to read FCK. A brilliant example of brevity in action. With a side-order of honesty, humor and humanity to go.

    So we like our brevity to come with a little levity. Some wit. Today’s world is serious. A little charm in life can often make all the difference.


    “Being concise is difficult. But being original – and concise – is shockingly difficult.”

    Especially in sectors like tech.

    One of my first meetings with a large semiconductor company in Sunnyvale was a session on what they did. Five hours later, I’m wondering whether I should have studied computer science at university instead of Latin and Greek.

    A dose of brevity would certainly have made the briefing briefer, but brevity would have to battle the phenomenon that seems to be really prevalent in tech: there is more perceived value in complexity than in simplicity. A sense that simple just isn’t worth as much because it lacks the academic context and narrative. There’s a quote that sums this up well, from the 2015 movie ‘The Big Short’: Wall Street loves to use confusing terms. To make you think only they can do what they do.

    Thankfully, confident tech brands (and others) are changing that and making “less is more” fashionable. Amazon favouring concise narrative speeches from its execs in meetings over on-screen presentations has echoes of its one-click approach to ecommerce. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to communicate your idea in a minute or two; and should that be less credible that bookending your idea with 200 slides in a deck. This sentiment has echoes of Winston Churchill banning extraneous words from internal memos so that ministers could speak and act more rapidly during wartime.

    As a non-tech person, my line of questioning at the beginning of a branding project often asks about benefit. I understand that the product has all these whizzy features but how does it benefit the end-user. And how can talking to benefit help engage them more quickly than talking about features and making the customer do all the hard work in trying to determine what’s in it for them.

    At Heavenly, we’d favour magic first, logic second, every time. It’s recognizing that brevity-impatience axis again.

    When it comes to branding, innovation makes things doubly difficult. Especially if you’re inventing new products and services which are not always readily describable by the words in the dictionary. So perhaps it’s easier to explain these inventions in a few sentences rather than a few words.

    As Mark Twain once said, “I’m writing you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write you a short one”.

    Being concise is difficult. But being original – and concise – is shockingly difficult.

    Which segues neatly into a brief word on the bane of any brander’s professional life.


    Intellectual property. Or IP for short.

    All those companies and brands I mentioned in the stats section have to be called something. And they all want a world of vernacular around their brand names. Taglines, messaging, descriptions.

    And not only does this put an onus on originality, it also puts an onus on ownability.

    The total number of US trademark applications in the last six months of 2021 was 312,000 – up 13% year on year. And it’s similar patterns of growth in the UK and Europe.

    The world is literally running out of IP. This is partly because technology and connectivity has made it easier to launch a business than ever before. But also because the pandemic has caused many people to pivot to something different. To prioritise their passions. Or at least decide whether they want to work to live, or live to work.

    So doing ideas is getting harder. But it doesn’t make the process any less energising. The glint in the eye I see in the team at Heavenly tells me that they relish the challenge.

    So, raise a glass to brevity. And, if you’ve read this far, thank you. I’ll close with a small morsel of food for thought. If buy into the idea that brevity is good. And begin to add more compression to your expression – what are you going to do with all that time that brevity is saving you? Ah yes: have more ideas!