Daba Lessons: Simplifying Communication

by Abby Lambert


My granddaughter Clara is 18 months old. Although she is a very expressive child, she has yet to say a single intelligible word. She doesn’t say “Mama” or “Da-da” or “Ki-Ki”, instead she prefers to use the word “Daba” for everything in her world. Clara’s parents have expressed concern about her limited vocabulary. They worry that she is behind the normal development curve for toddlers. Clara doesn’t seem concerned–in fact she’s very enthusiastic about all things “daba”.

Out in the sunny garden this weekend a neighbor and their year-old son Ben stopped by for an impromptu toddler visit. It was fascinating to see the two small people interact successfully without uttering a single real word. Clara: “Daba.” Ben: “Aay.” These two words allowed them to communicate easily whether the topic of the minute was wrangling toys or pointing out passing joggers. I started to imagine a world where adults could simplify our language, making it easier to communicate with less words. It occurred to me that simplification of ideas into effective communication is what marketing is all about.

With today’s tools and tactics available to marketers it can be daunting to roll out a promotion or even prepare an upgrade campaign. Letters, email, social media, flyers, direct mail, print ads, door hangers, web sites, signage… all are ways to reach our intended audience. We spend hours developing the right words to accompany the most creative designs. Words for print, words for web, words for Facebook, words for billboards…whew! Here’s my question: what if we take our cue from Clara and Ben and use far fewer words? What if we use fewer words that have more impact and relate single ideas more effectively? How about a huge billboard with an image of a happy baby pointing to a product with the word “Daba!”? An extreme example perhaps, but I’ve decided to challenge myself to seek different, simple and unique ways to communicate with less words and more meaning.

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