Friday, October 24, 2008

Cuteness and the Economic Crisis

I read an interesting article over at Change Order, a blog about the integration of design and business.

David Sherwin, who wrote the article, made an interesting speculation: With the recent "financial tsunami" that has hit the world, companies are making a mad dash to merge in order stave off bankruptcy. For example, WaMu's merger with Chase. With that, new questions emerge: What will happen to their branding? And with the unavoidable recession looming in consumers' minds, can cute branding survive?

"WaMu had invested countless billions of dollars to paint a perky, friendly face on money. The WaMu marketing machine had been laser-focused on less-sophisticated, higher-risk consumers, putting forth a friendly facade that was dubbed by their former CEO, Kerry Killinger, as the 'Wal-Mart of Banking.'"

Just check out this ad for WaMu that uses the irresistability of puppies and the adorable tagline "Whoo-Hoo!" to sell its services:

He suggests that this fresh, young image will now serve to repel the very same people it used to attract. And his logic, simply put, is thus:

Cuteness relies on optimism, and optimism relies on prosperity. Without that prosperity, people are no longer looking for the cute, friendly face in advertising. They are looking for a real, grown up, fact-based brand. While I believe this to be true, I also think that cuteness in advertising still has its place.

Advertising relies on one basic thing: happiness. Cuteness can bring that happiness–it can reassure, and in these troubling times, reassurance is key.

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