I just happened across this interesting article authored by Jim Carroll, Chairman at BBH London. If you’ve got a couple of minutes to spare, I recommend giving it a proper read. If you don’t, here’s his story in a figurative yet unashamedly delicious nutshell…
It’s the early 80s. Car manufacturers are increasingly using wind tunnels to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of their cars. Prototypes are created, data analysed and improvements made. Hard edges become round edges. Then, back in the tunnel, further testing validates the improvements in efficiency.
There is one problem though: all the cars now look the same. Efficient but amorphous.
Today, Jim argues, marketing is going through a wind tunnel of its own. The increased demand for demonstrable ROI, scientific best practices and customer testing is making communications more efficient, more streamlined, but at the same time more moderate and easier to overlook.
It’s a fascinating comparison, if a little dour. There is clearly a lot to be said for the positive impacts of ‘wind tunnel marketing’. But it’s important to remember that all the metrics, analysis and focus groups in the world are worthless if the outcome is not first and foremost unmissable or unforgettable.
And while cars can afford to all look alike (we’ll still need to get from A to B), the advertising industry relies far more heavily on differentiation for effectiveness. As Bill Bernbach, the inventor of modern advertising once remarked, “in advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”
Charlie Thorogood, copywriter at Mason Zimbler, is turning off his fan.