Thursday, March 17, 2005

So much to admire, so little to enjoy.

I recently listened to a young advertising creative person having a conversation with some colleagues. One of his remarks stayed with me after he had left - the expression "If I was a consumer...." innocent enough you might think, on its own. The thoughtless remark suggested to me the sense of remoteness that pervades in the world of advertising and design. Rather than being engaged in the process of creating a meaningful dialogue (both lasting and profitable) with the people who love your product, ad people and designers project their own tastes and sensibilities onto the audience. They ignore the nature of the brand and its interactions with its fans.

This thread was followed up with a conversation I had at the opening of HB Media's new central city offices.
The discussion turned to the aesthetic of the Warehouse's red shed identity. With all of the cash the company genenates why not invest a little in refreshig the dreary graphic identity?
I can't hink of anything that would be more wasteful and possibly destructive (in sales, profits and shareholder return). The Warehouse has a down-home aesthetic that is not only recognisable - but also iconic. More importantly, if the Warehouse was to tart itself up it would run the risk of confusing and alienating the people that trust the company to deliver on their promise that 'everyone gets a bargain'.

Much as I personally find almost everything about the warehouse distasteful I have to refer back to my theory of eliminating ambiguity. The Warehouse is unambiguously a discounter. Ratcheting their aesthic up a notch at this point in their life would be a mixed signal. People know that eveything has a price. Especially fancy packaging.

It is a challenge when our clients expect us to have a refined sense of aesthetics. It is tempting to deliver virtuoso performances. We have a professional responsibilty to beware of creating messages that (in the words of Samuel Johnson) offer 'much to admire and little to enjoy'.

Part of the enjoyment is to share a vision with people that they can relate to and understand.

Which reminds me of another quote from that great philosopher Muddy Waters - "Jez cause dey pretty, don mean dey so nice".

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