Remarkable Designs Sell Products and Spread Ideas
In the 1980’s the crumbling industrial city of Bilbao in Northern Spain was reeling under double-digit unemployment. It’s steel and shipbuilding industries had since collapsed, leaving behind grim decaying dockyards and a disillusioned population. The city was in dire need of transformation.
When the Mayor invited architect Frank Gehry to design a museum in the city, the outcry was tremendous. The project was described as irrelevant, exclusive and a waste of public money. Today, the city basks in the Guggenheim Effect!
This imaginatively-designed-titanium-clad-masterpiece-of-a-building captured the world’s interest instantly and almost overnight catapulted tourism in the area. In the first three years after the museum opened, the city raised over US$114m in taxes; enough to recover the costs of construction and then some.
Guggenheim Bilbao was such a success because the remarkable architectural design of the museum generated immense worldwide interest, which in turn resulted in increase in tourism and therefore provided massive boost to the local economy.
“Remarkability” is the chief reason for things to go viral. Its essence lies in being unusual, novel, extreme, extraordinary or simply, interesting. It is what makes products noteworthy. Research conducted at the University of Wharton suggests that remarkable brands get talked about twice as often as the less remarkable ones. The key to finding remarkability is to think about what could make something interesting, novel or surprising? Could the product do something that no one had thought of before? For example, Virgin Australia installed water re-filling stations on-board its air-crafts that the passengers walk up to, to refill their water bottles. A very informal and novel setup for staying hydrated on a flight! Not only does it demonstrate the brand attitude — easygoing and environmentally conscious but also creates a talking point for the customers.
The first ever Blackpool Lights Festival was held in September of 1879. A total of eight arc lamps were switched on on the promenade of the seaside resort. The event was so noteworthy for the time, that it was advertised nationally in UK as ‘artificial sunshine’. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people travelled from all over Britain to experience it. This festival is still held every autumn. The show has since become more extravagant and costs approx. US$3.5 million to stage. But it now attracts roughly 3.5 million visitors to Blackpool annually and this army of visitors spend more than US$398 million while visiting the lights.
Remarkable solutions don’t necessarily have to be a multi-million dollar project. They can very easily be cheap and simple. But they must be ingenious. In 2015 Quilton introduced the “Love Handle” — a polythene handle attached to one of the narrow ends of its bulk packed toilet rolls package. By making this addition to their packaging design they not only bettered the shopping experience of their customers, but also created buzz around a product as mundane as toilet paper.
Mysteries and controversies are also often remarkable and can generate a lot of buzz, particularly if handled cleverly. They can make things more interesting and stimulate conversations, debates and discussions. The Kardashian clan has built an empire worth US$300 million on this.
A fresh take on an ordinary issue is another way to get people talking. Dollar Shave Club is a US$615m company that offers subscription service to deliver men’s razor blades. The company started its journey in mid 2011 and in March of 2012 the startup’s co-founder & CEO, Michael Dubin, uploaded a YouTube video entitled “Our Blades Are F***ing Great”. (Must Watch!) The video cost US$4,500 to make and in two days of upload had prompted 12,000 orders and gathered 3 million views within a week. The viral video helped Dollar Shave Club to quickly build its brand and add 2 million subscribers to its delivery service. The video also went on to win “Best Out-of-Nowhere Video Campaign” at the 2012 AdAge Viral Video Awards.
We inhabit a world inundated with brands. It is impossible for consumers to pay attention to all the messages that are being broadcast at them. So as designers and entrepreneurs our best chance is to stand apart — to be remarkable! Remarkability can be incorporated at any of the various levels in the brand’s journey. If the product is run-of-the-mill, the message can be noteworthy, or the packaging can be awe-inspiring or the product placement can be unique. Design has immense power and remarkability is your Trojan Horse — the carrier of your intents and messages. Used intelligently and properly it can reward you like no other faculty can!