Ever choose a bottle of wine because the label looked nice? Or buy a book because the cover looked good?
In a past life, I designed book jackets for Vintage Paperbacks -- so it was my job to make you do that. But despite my lack of wine expertise, my choice of wine based on font barely disappoints. I am a believer that good design cues usually tell you all you need to know. Design-driven decisions aren't necessarily new to the world of advertising, but two recent examples drive home the utter power of design to serve as the catalyst to consumer action.
The first is Apple, often lauded for its product design and approach to advertising. We have all seen how its product design has the power to stop you in your tracks, literally. In the past, its advertising has taken the form of beautifully colored dancing silhouettes and cinematic TV spots shot by Ridley Scott.
But recently, a simpler more straight-forward approach blew me away. Apple is supremely confident in its product, and maybe more important, the experience design it has put out there. There aren't many products or brands that could use interaction and interface design as the sole content to carry a TV spot, but that is exactly what it did. It is this focus on design and interaction that has perhaps emerged as the most powerful advertising vehicle of all.
Now compare Apple iPhone ads to the ads for would-be rival, Android, with its phone from outer space story lines. In this case, the rival lost out to something much more subtle yet more powerful -- beautiful design trumps "smartphones from space." These spots do a tremendous disservice to the Android device, which upon using it is every bit as innovative as the iPhone. The TV spots don't focus on the inherent beauty of the Droid's design, but rather on storyline that doesn't even really show the product. And even though the storyline and the threat of a "reveal" may be interesting, it has done nothing to show me the value of a powerful product.
The second great example that illustrates the power of design comes from Dyson. If you told me ten years ago that I would be writing about the inherent beauty of a vacuum cleaner and its ad campaigns, I'd have thought you were crazy. However, the ads featuring the company's founder, James Dyson, are remarkably powerful.
I'm sure you have seen the spots that feature Dyson talking about the vacuum, dissecting its design, delving into the reasoning behind each piece and more. In fact, in one of the more recent spots, Dyson talks about how all previous vacuum cleaners have had the same specific design flaw. He then proceeds to show you how his latest product, the Dyson Ball, addresses this issue. You're left feeling that Dyson is simply one of the coolest "gadgets" you have ever laid eyes on. I'm talking about a vacuum cleaner!
Unfortunately these two examples are not the norm. Too often campaigns are used as a "make-over" to hide a poor user experience or product at the other end of the ad. No amount of advertising is going to repair the damage done to a consumer who feels they have been tricked into purchasing a dud. What I love about the two examples above is that advertising got out of the way to give great design the spotlight. In both of these cases, you know exactly what you are buying, and the brands are confident you're going to like what they're selling. When you have a brand dedicated to getting the design right, sometimes that's all the advertising they need.
This is becoming even more pronounced today because for many brands the digital experience is the product. In the end, the quality of that experience and the customers' perception of it might be the biggest ad they could have, especially because we're all so well equipped to tell everyone we don't like it when we get there. For brands like these, it becomes increasingly hard to justify a divide between marketing and product. It also makes it interesting for agencies as we rarely get access to the product team -- which is where we could have our greatest impact.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Conor Brady is chief creative officer at Organic, an Omnicom agency.