Yep, we agree with you Barry... 100%
We have referenced Barry and The Paradox of Choice in many of our new project proposals and client meetings.
As Santeri explained so well in a previous post... "Less is More". This will always be true. It is a mantra that we follow religiously every day. A mantra that we annoy our clients with on a regular basis. Whenever we start a new project we always make one simple request: "Please let us help you do better by doing more with less". However, no matter how many times we say this to a room full of nodding heads and knowing smiles, we often find ourselves being asked at the 11th hour to throw in the kitchen sink (with bells and whistles)... which ultimately results in us doing less with more.
Some clients want proof and ask us to validate our mantra with hard data (whilst they are dumping a truck load of content for their new one page responsive website into our shared Dropbox folder). This can be tricky as up until now "Less is More" has been more of a belief system, a feeling, intuition based on many years experience of knowing what consumers want... rather than a science.
However, my friend Malcolm Gladwell has come to the rescue (he is not actually a friend, but I've read all of his books and he sounds like a nice bloke). Whilst on the train this morning reading his book "David & Goliath" I came across a reference to Barry Schwartz and some inverted-U curves:
As you know I'm already very familiar with Barry, but the inverted-U curves are a new discovery (I guess they must have been knocking around academia and research agencies for quite a while now). They are a very simple but effective way of illustrating less is more. They are based on approximate data, theory and hypothesis, and may not stand up to hard scrutiny, but they help support our mantra. The subject matter for each inverted U-curve is different, and you probably need to read Malcolm's book to fully understand the context, but they are relatively easy to follow. This is what Barry had to say: "Across many domains of Psychology, one finds that 'X' increases 'Y' to a point, and then it decreases 'Y'... There is no such thing as unmitigated good. All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits."
Malcolm goes on to say that Inverted-U curves have three parts: 1. left (doing more or having more = positive effect) 2. middle (doing more or having more = neutral effect) 3. right (doing more or having more = negative effect). Malcolm's dad (a mathematician) goes one stage further, he believes there are 4 phases: footing / flagging / flat / falling). Fascinating.
That's probably enough on the subject for now (less is more).
Whatever your opinion on the subject, I'm sure you'll agree that more is not always more... it can sometimes be less! Don't just take our word for it, we all know what happened to Tony Montana when he got to the right side of his inverted-U curve:
Let's face it: the future is coming, and with it comes change. There's nothing we can do to stop it. Yet some branding and marketing gurus believe you can protect yourself from the inevitable with something called future-proofing.
"Future-proofing" is a fancy way of saying "making good long-term decisions". The problem with the phrase is that it encourages complacency. If you actually believe your brand is future-proof, then you're in for a nasty surprise when the future catches you off guard.
I don't believe any brand is future-proof, and that's actually a good thing. How boring would that be? Sure, we do our best to create something that will stand the test of time, but when the Change Monster comes around we need to respond, not bury our heads in the sand. This is especially true in digital and web design; the future will always win.
So instead of trying to future-proof everything, let's accept that the tides of change will wash over our work and reshape it in ways we can't foresee. Let's embrace the future and how it pushes us to improve, rather than close ourselves off in fear.
Let's do the best we can today, then do better tomorrow.
Yep, can't argue with that, when stuff sucks we really should make it right.
We've lived through years of very poor customer service from pretty much all mobile phone service providers. A classic example of the 'take our money and run' business model. However, I am pleased to announce that we are now living in a time of transformation and a change is gonna come... hopefully. After several decades of big corporations religiously preaching the same business mantra of 'give a bit less and take a bit more' there appears to be a small but definite shift.
The digital age has forced big brands to look up from their analogue bean counters and try a little bit harder to understand what today's digitally empowered consumers want and need. The choice-rich consumers of 2015 are tired of getting less for more and want brands to man-up and just do better.
Big brands from P&G to Unilever have tapped into this new consumer mind-set and are now starting to invest in the wisdom of alternative business transformation gurus. The big idea that most gurus are spreading is really quite simple. Most 3 day brand business transformation workshops could be distilled down to a 3 minute / 3 slide deck. The way forward into a brave new world (where brands and consumers walk barefoot, hand in hand, through meadows of flowers into the sunrise) is quite simple:
1. give more take less.
2. listen more talk less.
3. act more react less.
Ok, this all sounds great in theory. I genuinely do believe that we are in a good place, and that most brands have woken up from their slumber and are actively finding new ways to do better. However, I do hope that brands like three (that have made the bold move to shout about their promise to #makeitright) are telling us the truth.
The time is now for all mobile phone brands to do the same. If three are true to their word the suckers will be the other mobile phone brands who do not follow their lead. If not, here's looking at you sucker!
With True Detective back on our screens for a second season, it's a good time to revisit one of the most successful rebrands of recent years. What can we learn from the McConaissance?
1. You don't need a logo change
A lot of rebrands revolve around the changing of the logo. Yahoo made a gratuitous month-long spectacle out of changing theirs, Gap was ridiculed for attempting a change, and US presidential candidates are being criticized for their logos as they fall short of Obama's success.
The truth is that you don't even need a logo to begin with in order to successfully rebrand, as McConaughey proves. In fact, having a 'logo' can come across as being a bit ridiculous. Look at Nick Jonas:
2. You don't need to shout about it
You don't need to twerk about it either. McConaughey proves that rebranding can be done with a cool effortlessness. A few tasteful film and TV choices and performances were enough to shift his image entirely. Miley Cyrus' approach to rebranding, on the other hand, is about as in-your-face as it gets. It can work, but the subtle approach tends to be more effective, more permanent and less subject to ridicule.
3. It's hard to come second
When a McConaissance is pulled off once it's very hard for someone else to pull it off again with equal success, especially if they're going about it the same way. Take Vince Vaughn as an example. He is on a very McConaughesque trajectory from comedic actor to star of the new season of True Detective, and will as a result be constantly compared to McConaughey (there are already whispers of the Vaughnaissance). Hillary Clinton is in the same boat, her H logo falls a bit flat after Obama's unprecedentedly iconic O. It's hard to be second, do something different and be first instead.
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself."
Every day in branding brings me closer to a realization akin to Neo's spoon moment.
You start out eager to make stuff, to improve things with 'better design', to make brands better with better visual content. Design seems to have substance in and of itself. There's a reflex to pick up the pencil (or increasingly, for better or worse, to turn on the computer) and to start designing stuff.
And I get it. As a visual person I get irritated by bad visuals, bad letter-spacing, bad fonts, bad photoshopping, bad layouts, bad photography... It's our duty to do these things well and to follow certain aesthetic principles (and not to make things 'look good', but to make things relevant).
But when a brand is at its very best, there is no graphic design. Good design isn't a layer of butter that you can spread onto your toast, it needs to be baked into the bread itself. It's the product of research and understanding something deeply enough to be able to look at it in a new way.
Graphic design is a tool. It can be a sledgehammer, or a little screwdriver. Whatever it is, the end-goal is to get rid of something or to fix something. The goal is not simply to use the sledgehammer. You may have lots of fun wielding it, but nobody else cares until you knock down the right wall.
Think of graphics as harmful exhaust fumes. If you can get from point A to point B and produce less of them, that's always the more efficient and more desirable outcome.
Design (at least in the context of branding) has nothing to do with sitting on the computer and making things look good. It's 90% research. So before you start scrolling through that list of fonts for the hundredth time, think about whether you have any words worth writing first.
I use the phrase all the time, and even when I'm not saying it out loud I'm saying it to myself. It seems to be universally applicable but it resonates particularly well in branding and marketing, where the focus is usually on more: more calls to action, more features, more messaging, more noise...
Here are two of my favorite examples where less proves to be more:
Google's success is down to many things, but I'm convinced their less is more approach plays a major role. This is basically how Google started: Type something into this box and search for it. Perhaps they already had their sights set on world domination when it first went online, but they resisted the temptation to do everything and started with doing just one thing, and doing it well.
And most impressively, since its launch nearly 20 years ago very little has changed. Yes, there are many more facets to Google today, but google.com is pretty much still the same old search box. Compare that to Yahoo below. It's no surprise I can't really tell you what Yahoo does; I guess it's some kind of platform where a lot of stuff happens, but I'd rather stay far, far away from it.
For anyone starting a business: spare a thought for the Google search box. Instead of trying to perfect all 50 features of your tech start-up and constantly delaying the launch, try picking one feature that sets it apart from the rest and just launch that. Start small. Start with less.
Less is more in advertising. Most car brands agonize over how they can make their car seem like more than a car. The result is that the car gets compared to a cheetah, or the car is depicted on a beautiful stretch of road with the latest trending pop song. The hope is that the coolness of that cheetah or that song will somehow rub off on the car. What more can we add to this car to make it cool? It's a symptom of insecurity.
Audi decided that less is more and did the opposite. No Rihanna, no stretch of alpine road, no lion metaphor, no masculine voice-over, no sexy models, no fancy computer-generated effects. And why stop there? Less car is more car, right? Let's tear a chunk off the rear!
So is this a better car ad? Do people prefer it to other car ads? Yes it is, and yes they do.
We challenged Middlesex University's 2nd year BA Graphic Design students to choose an under-performing brand, identify its brand message, and bring that message to life in a better way. We saw a lot of great work but were particularly impressed with Arturas' presentation and his methodical approach to doing better with the Fish hair brand. Arturas took home an iPad for his strong performance.
A big thanks to all the students who chose our brief and did better with their chosen brands! We look forward to the next one.