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Getting a Slight Idea

Last week Josh showed me a clip from
the documentary on advertising, Art & Copy. In one scene that I saw, a
guy said something about how advertising can create something that
its audience will get, in this case it was creating a particular
brand of humour. People who get the joke and think it was funny start
having a relationship with the brand. Not everyone will get the
humour, but those who do share something in common with the brand, and
with each other.

That made me think about what other sorts of stuff we as groups of
people get. It doesn’t just have to be humour.

Three years ago only a few people got Twitter. Now that everyone gets
it, everyone has have it. As a result of that, since everyone has it,
I feel less of a connection to those who get it.

So I thought about that, and I also thought about some Field Notes
notebooks I bought recently. They’re a product that a small but loyal
number of people get. They have a couple of unique qualities, but most
of them should lead the average consumer not to buy them.

When I compare them to the well known Moleskin brand…

  • They are smaller.
  • They don’t have a bookmark.
  • They don’t have a elastic band.
  • They don’t have a back pocket.
  • They don’t come as many varieties.
  • They only come in one size.
  • There are no perforated pages.
  • They’re harder to find in stores.
  • They’re more expensive than a Moleskine.

Three positive aspects about the product and the brand:

  • It’s made in the USA.
  • They have a great social media presence and they release great media.
  • There’s humour laced throughout the product.
  • The brand is associated with jobs where people make things or do
    dirty, unappealing work

Even given these points, some people like this product more than
Molekines. And I think it goes further than the products being
“simpler” than Moleskines. That argument is a cop out. There’s
something else here.

What is it then?

On the Field Notes website they use this quote,

“Inspired by the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list…”

This product is vanishing, it’s unusual, complex, simple, and unassuming.

Maybe there’s something to the fact that like in each point I
mentioned above, this product is generally weaker, and not as cost
effective. In trying to find a word that describes the weakness of
this particular product, even with it’s durable construction, I’m
tempted to settle on the term “slight” to describe by all accounts
what should contribute to its undesirableness.

Two definitions of slight that are in tune with what I’m going after:

  1. Not profound or substantial; somewhat trivial or superficial
  2. Not sturdy and strongly built

Maybe that slightness is what brings people together around the brand.

Maybe instead of making a product that was better than the Moleskine,
they instead made a product, as best as possible, to embody those
values.

What came out of that may not be a “better” product, but it’s one with
a well sculpted place and meaning.

In John Meada’s The Laws of Simplicity, he says that lightness and
size are characteristics of simplicity.

So maybe slightness leads to simplicity.

And maybe simplicity helps people get it.

Update 1: Given all I’ve written above, something that occured to me was that even with a slight product like the Field Notes, like other paper products, we can trust it. Trust is another idea that’s in The Laws of Simplicity. We trust the product because there’s no data to get lost, or corrupt, or battery etc… There isn’t even complex tabs or organizers to muddle the system.

Update 2: Update 1 is stupid. Because you can trust a Moleskine just as much as you can a Field Notes.

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