Simplicity is beauty.
So why are we asking our customers to do such complicated things?
Look at this poster, taken from World War 1 (when the world was a smaller, simpler and probably more scary place):
Put yourself in this mother’s shoes.
The war is raging.
People, relatives, friends, are dying like cattle on rain-swept, blood soaked fields hundreds of miles from home.
The latest technological inventions are prowling the waters, sinking ships full of people and food.
The war is huge.
The war is all encompassing.
The war is unwinnable by one person alone.
And yet, what is she (we) being asked to do?
Save two thick slices of bread a day and defeat the ‘U’ boat.
Two slices of bread.
That’s all it took.
But with enough people behind the cause, food could be saved. Lives could be saved.
Soldiers could be fed.
Those left at home might survive the most brutal onslaught the world had ever seen.
The U boat wouldn’t have so many convoys to attack, to sink.
The war could be won.
What does this teach the modern advertiser?
That even the biggest task can be made possible through small, easily achievable, actions.
Tasks like slowing our impact on the planet are out of reach for one person alone. But through small actions, actions which can be taken every day with only a modicum of thought, great things can be achieved.
And this poster (along with many similar) teaches us three very, very important things.
Through design and advertising, we can link the individual’s actions to a direct consequence on the wider community without overplaying either.
We can make work that is personal, and yet deeply rooted in social consciousness.
We can empower people to make a difference in a way that really, really matters.
So, next time you’re working up a campaign, ask yourself one question:
How much am I asking the viewer to do in order to carry out the desired behaviour.
Because if it’s not as simple as saving two slices of bread a day, you could be asking far, far too much.
Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
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