The elegance of Nothing by Seth Godin
The red sole of a Louboutin shoe, or the elegant tag on a pair of Tom’s?
The sweeping fenders of a Porsche 911 or the needless complications of a fancy watch…
Today, a certain kind of customer is using a Muji notebook, or wearing a plain Everlane t-shirt. Is this what we’ve come to?
One might come to the conclusion that consumers have rejected all the effort that designers and marketers have produced in a statement that rejects design. Not so fast.
Design is the new marketing. It is the product itself, not the ads or the slogan. Design is the supply chain of Patagonia, the ethics of Purple Carrot and the customer service at Union Square Cafe.
It’s design, not advertising, that turned Apple into the most valuable luxury brand (and the most valuable company) in the world.
But design requires a point of view. The confidence to make an assertion. And the skill to turn that assertion into something that resonates with the person you seek to serve.
It’s probably easier to create heavily adorned mash-up than it is to produce a Field Notes notebook. Stripping away the artifice doesn’t always leave something pure. It often creates banality, the simple commodity that’s easy to buy cheaper one click away.
The elegant nothing brands aren’t about nothing. Not all.
They merely have a different, more difficult sort of artifice. The artifice of no artifice. The elegance of leading with utility as its own form of style.
And what is a brand? It’s not the logo, certainly. I have no idea what Everlane’s logo is.
The brand is our shorthand for the feelings that an experience creates, the promises that a product or service brings with it.
If Nike announced that they were opening a hotel, you’d have a pretty good guess about what it would be like.
But if Hyatt announced that they were going to start making shoes, you would have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what those shoes would be like.
That’s because Nike owns a brand and Hyatt simply owns real estate.
For a company that stands for few details to become a brand, then, there needs to be a promise associated with what they make and what you’ll get if you engage with it instead of buying the cheaper commodity.
In most cases where brands have been built, the brand has:
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