Branding and the “Hey” Phenomenon

Christine Perfetti

April 11th, 2007

Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Fail, have written a great article, Polarize Me, for this month’s issue of Fast Company. They discuss why marketing headlines typically fail to impress users:

Why do these headlines suck so much? Fear. Fear of saying too much. Fear of saying something clever that someone might think is stupid. Fear of saying something revealing that might turn someone off. The headlines try desperately not to exclude anyone. In doing so, they succeed at boring everyone.

The “Hey” phenomenon is rampant in the corporate world. Branding is nothing more than a company’s personal ad, and companies are as bad at it as singles. Gap (NYSE:GPS), for example, is the “Hey” of fashion, thus its recent woes. And Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) –who, exactly, does it want to date? Brands with enough scale think they can get away with being generically likable. And some can, at least for a little while.

Dan and Chip touch upon a common mistake we’ve observed in our research: When design teams focus on satisfying the needs of everyone, they often fail to entice the people who actually matter, the target audience. Time and time again, we’ve found that the most successful teams focus on their specific users’ needs and create messages targeted just to them.

Add a Comment