If you have recently decluttered your basement, arranged your closet like a UNIQLO display, or taken up bullet journaling, meal prepping, or veganism – there’s a good chance you have fallen under the spell of minimalism. But not just any kind of minimalism, 21st century minimalism, a sharp response to a noisy world where excess consumption, information, and advertising is commonplace.
This minimalist attitude has been seeping back into our culture for several years now. You can see it in the looks of sleek startup offices, Instagram-friendly streetwear influencers, and in the identical brick and naked wood interiors of coffee shops around the world. Minimalism has formed a simple and effective connecting tissue for a globalized economy – while simultaneously attempting to buck its wasteful and exploitative tendencies.
However, it often seems that the world of marketing has been the least affected by this 21st century revival of minimalism – the age of Volkswagen’s brilliantly simple Lemon ads has been replaced with one of marketing jargon, long-winded documentary ads, and surreal brand mashups. Marketing today seems more concerned with cluttering than decluttering, more attention-seeking than thought-provoking.
But there are signs that advertisers and publishers are starting to look towards minimalist principles for answers. Here are three examples of how the “less is more” mentality is helping media and marketing move forward today.
After years of religiously promoting rapid-fire content production as a way to attract views and build audiences, some publishers are opting to reduce content volume and focus on producing smarter and more engaging work. Last year, The Guardian reduced its output by 33% and noticed an increase of 2 million unique monthly visitors.
Inspired by the slow but purposeful output of popular content producers on YouTube and other platforms, publications are starting to abandon the “content farm” model of sourcing stories in favor of curated and thoughtful production. Marketers should be next to follow suit.
During the National Retail Federation’s annual conference earlier this year, Monica Turner, Proctor & Gamble’s senior vice-president of sales in North America, embraced the minimalist catchphrase “more is less, less is more” in order to describe the company’s new approach to reaching customers.
By combining minimalism with personalization, a non-intrusive form of low-volume, non-repetitive advertising promises to reach consumers when and how they want to be reached. This means more purposeful advertising, and less consumer backlash.
Returning to simpler principles
Minimalism is most easily recognizable in the design of advertising campaigns themselves. For a great example of recent minimalist design, look no further than McDonalds, who recently unveiled a striking series of unbranded posters that employ nothing but text, color, and typography to evoke the mental image of its classic burgers and breakfast muffins.
“She chose Inspira,” Brownstein Group’s latest ad campaign for Inspira Health, also sought to communicate more with less. The ad, featuring no music and filmed in black and white, shows a cancer patient taking control of her treatment by shaving her head in a powerful scene. Everything from the production (the team only had one chance to film the hair clipping) to the end result (the ad features no dialogue and only a short voiceover) demonstrates how minimalism can be employed to evoke a strong emotional connection with audiences.