Back in the olden days, when I was getting my Masters of Advertising at Northwestern University, I had a professor named Don E. Schultz. He was the guy who literally wrote the book on advertising strategy. A tall, balding, round-shouldered man (he reminded me of the harmonica player in the Country Bear Jamboree), Dr. Schultz was known for demanding rigor from his students–in analytical thinking, creative innovation and, especially, the art of creative brief writing.

We were writing briefs for ad campaigns, which would theoretically be executed in print ads, TV spots, radio, etc. But even though the campaign might produce a full-page newspaper ad or a :60 spot, the creative brief–particularly the brand promise–absolutely, positively had to be concise and laser-focused.

One customer benefit.

But– but– but– Sometimes the assignments were for products that had a multitude of benefits. It saves time! It’s convenient! It tastes good! It’s healthy! It’s 100% natural!

We quickly learned, though, that we had to choose.

“One benefit!” Schultz would bellow in his Oklahoma drawl. “Not TWO benefits! Not THREE benefits! ONE benefit!!” Schultz understood that it didn’t matter if an advertiser had ten seconds on the radio or two pages in a magazine spread to sell someone on their products.

Because it’s not about the advertiser and how much they want to say. It’s about what people can comprehend in the split second of attention they may privilege you with.

What mattered then, as now, is that people need simplicity. And an advertising message can’t hope to be simple if it tries to convey more than one benefit.

Fast forward from grad school to Pollywog.

Brand creation requires the same level of rigor. But unlike an advertising campaign, which you can change if it’s not working, a brand needs to last a lifetime. It’s critical to get it right from the beginning.

At Pollywog, we take clients through a Power Positioning session to gather the information we need to proceed into name generation. Sometimes it starts as an info dump. Clients want to include every possible facet of a product in order to make it more attractive to their customer. And that’s when we have to prioritize, whittle away, consolidate, soul-search and then eliminate even more.

While the Power Positioning brief will contain helpful background information, as well as an articulation of a brand differentiator, ultimately the brand promise that remains is one sentence.

ONE sentence.

If you can’t fit your brand promise into one sentence, you’re probably trying to say too much. Saddling a new offering with a brand that’s overly broad, complex or ambiguous will doom it to failure, or at best, a lifetime of anemia.

So here’s a test. Write your brand promise in the form of a customer benefit, then send it as a tweet. You’ll start with 140 characters, but leave room to spare so that it can be retweeted.

Here’s Pollywog’s. Be looking for it on Twitter:

Your Pollywog-created brand will be a business-building asset from launch through the long term.

Now show us yours.