Microns: Theory and Economics (Part 1)

Less is More

When Twitter launched in March 2007, a lot of people wondered what could be communicated in 140 characters. Its popularity soared through the years, and it has more than 300 million users and a market cap of over $40 billion. (In 2017, Twitter doubled its maximum tweet length to 280 characters.) A single SMS is 160 characters and until WhatsApp came along, we had all learnt how to keep most messages within that limit. So, brevity in communication and information is not something new.

Some of us will remember the world of the postcard. When writing letters, we had two primary choices – the inland letter or the postcard. The postcard was the shorter and cheaper option. We all learnt how to say maximum with the minimum words. And if we go further back, we had the telegram where the pricing was by the word – all the more reason to stick to the basics.

In the early days of the Internet, with dial-up speeds slow, websites had to keep the page size under control. It’s only in the past 10 years or so as access speeds have accelerated that the worries on page size have vanished.

Marketing email too had started with plain text and then evolved to web page like design with the use of HTML for formatting the content. Images became the norm along with long emails full of clickable links.

What has not changed is our attention; it is the currency. With our time as the constraint and the rise in incoming messages across multiple channels (emails, SMS, push notifications, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Snap, Pinterest), the time we spend with each message has diminished. Studies have shown than marketing emails have just 3 seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Tick, tick, tick. Done. Next email. Repeat. No wonder that Tik Tok’s 6 second videos took the world by storm – something new before our impulse for something new takes over.

Marketers have little incentive to shorten their emails. Since open rates are anyways low, the focus is on maximising RoI from those who do open, and give them many possible reasons to click through. And it has worked well. Email has very high RoI given its low unit cost. So why try and fix something that is apparently not broken with microns?

Because less can be more. Small can be big. Signal can and must overwhelm noise. That’s why microns which can be fully consumed in 15-30 seconds. Information-rich, permission-led microns can transform email communication. Think of microns as driving the minimalism revolution in brand-customer interactions.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.