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Bernbach, Ogilvy, Burnett & Occam?

My partner Bob Barrie recently clued me into Occam's Razor, which, quite simply, states that "all other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." (Anybody who has seen Bob's essential work for Time magazine will agree he is an Occam-ite.)

Past masters in our business understood this well. And it wasn't just the clarity of working within three networks and a handful of national magazines. The ideas they created were singleminded and distinctive.

Today, given an unending array of new technologies and channels with which to reach consumers, it is essential that we simplify. Customers are pounded with messages every hour of the day.

Brands such as Target, Toyota, Apple and Disney pass the test of Occam's Razor. They've each diversified and grown without blurring their core brand idea. Starbuck's ignored Occam and complicated their brand idea but seems to be taking the right steps to correct these missteps.

But many brands haven't yet heeded the advice of the esteemed Franciscan friar. For example, Hot Wheels should not be on kids underpants and tooth brushes. Burlington Coat Factory shouldn't be selling baby accessories (and have a brand name which requires it to proclaim in advertising that it is not affiliated with Burlington Industries and that sells more than just coats).