Monday, June 7, 2010

From simple to un-simple.

Whether they're art, a tool or a pair of shoes, most things start out simple.

Look at cave drawings. Simple, direct, functional.

The Ten Commandments did a pretty succinct job of laying down the law. Some would argue that all legal thinking since the tablets is just commentary on the original ten rules.

And the Romans, Greeks and Phoenicians all had serviceable footwear. Since it seems that half the women in New York have band-aids all over their feet from shoes that don’t fit that well, I’d wager ancient shoes did their job at least as well as their modern brethren.

Of course, advertising started out simply enough as well. Old ads were usually simple declarations of product benefits.

Now along the way simple things fall prey to ornamentation. The assumption is that items need to be gussied up because people got bored with simple, or they wanted something new or different.

From simple to ornate then from ornate to simple is a progression that happens every couple of decades or centuries or so.

In 20th Century advertising we quickly went from fancy filigree and overpromise to “Lemon” and then back again. So advertising is just where it was before Bernbach came onto the scene. Again, just how I see things. There's a lot of noise, not a lot of thought.

Outside of Apple, seldom do you see something that differentiates and does so simply.

I’m not saying we need to bring back Helmut Krone. But from my 52-year-old point of view, none of the brands I currently know and understand were created during our current, noisy era.

I used to know what Budweiser was about. But now it’s about tits and foam. Just like every other beer. I knew what AT&T was about but I don't know Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile or the new AT&T. Except everything they sell costs more than they say it does. I know what BMW and FedEx are about but only because those brands communicated who they were 30 years ago and I remember.

I'll put this simply: we need to simplify.

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