Why Design IS NOT the Most Important Thing

and Standing Out is a Stupid Goal.

It’s almost impossible to find a creative agency that doesn’t sell design as the most important thing or promise to make you stand out above everyone else.

If you come across either, you should have some red flags raising and warning bells going off in your head.


Why design is NOT the most important thing.

When you see that “design is the most important thing”,  you’ve found is a company that believes sells are closed by being impressive.

These companies believe your design should be original. That you should be more creative than the other guys, and when you nail your design, you’ll have success.

Don’t fall victim to this alluring trap. You know better!

What is a good advertisement?

“… An advertisement which pleases you because of its style, or an advertisement which sells the most? They are seldom the same. Go through a magazine and pick out the advertisements you like best. You will probably pick those with beautiful illustrations, or clever copy. You forget to ask yourself whether your favorite advertisements would make you want to buy the product.”

Let’s take it a little further:

If you were to research past winners of the Clio Awards, you’ll discover some interesting things. Many of those who win for creativity lose those accounts shortly after. The winning campaigns have a short life span. And a good amount of those agencies wind up out of business.

Why? Well, What’s true for the fortune 500’s is the same for small business.

What we generally think is creative or what entertains us is rarely the same thing that motivates us to buy. This can plague all areas of marketing. Your logo, your website to any of your advertising – it’s all vulnerable.

It’s so easy to fall victim to our desire for praise or envy from our competition. It’s easy to forget about serving our customers. We must remember why we’re creating our marketing in the first place.

You know that you don’t win customers by impressing them.

You’ve won your customers over by selling your product as being valuable. We all buy the value of a product. We determine a product or service is worth our hard earned dollars, so we buy.


Think about the services you already use.

How did you decide on which phone provider to start using? Was it the aesthetic of their marketing? Or, was it the effectiveness of their messaging and the value you saw in the service?

Are you paying your phone bill because your provider is better looking and cooler than the other guys? Of course not, you’re paying them based upon their product, their service, their coverage.


Design is just a tool, only part of your entire marketing strategy.

Design is a tool with how you best communicate your message. Think of your website like a salesman. If you were ONLY concerned with how the salesman looked, would that salesman have all the tools necessary to be a success? No, your salesman would just be an empty suit with a pretty smile.

But dress is important you might say, which is true. Dress for success goes the saying. And of course, dress is important, but you must dress appropriately. It’d be a little odd buying a toothbrush from a man in a tuxedo.

Dress your marketing in a manner that will make your customers most at ease to hear your message. If they’re looking at your clothes (your design) then they’re not listening to what you’re trying to tell them.

If your doctor was wearing flashy basketball shoes and a flat bill cap, you’d have a hard time processing your diagnosis, right?

Good design gets out of the way, no matter what you’re trying to say.

Standing out is a stupid goal

There are far too many agencies tricking prospects with gimmicks. If you’ve been researching agencies, you’ve seen the promises to make your business stand out and just how important it is to do so.

On the surface standing out sounds like an obvious goal. I mean, if you’re not standing out, how will you ever get noticed.

But what everyone seems to be forgetting is that you don’t need to stand out. You’re selling to motivated buyers. The vast majority of time, the decision to purchase is made long before the hunt for a provider ever even starts.

The promise to stand out assumes you must be so different that you’ll get prospects attention, when the opposite is true. Prospects are looking for a provider so they can buy. You need to fit in with your market. You need to look like you belong in your industry, that you lead your industry, that you can be trusted.


Just think about it for a moment.

We are all bombarded with literally thousands upon thousands of advertisements every day.

A paralyzing amount of options are available with every decision we face… every single hour… every single day. It’s exhausting. You face this problem. I face this problem. Your customers face this problem.

We’ve learned, that to survive, we must filter out as much noise as possible to make a decision. It’s built into our very dna to filter out the noise when we’re so overwhelmed with choice.

Standing out would advocate that you need to look different than anyone else in your industry to break through all that noise. But in reality, all that will do is add to the noise and confusion to your prospects.

The “noise” gets filtered out.

Nobody has time nor the desire to investigate every odd-ball solution. There are already so many recognizable solutions that must be evaluated. By trying to stand out, you’ll actually be doing the opposite – you’ll be filtered out in a heartbeat.


Instead of adding to that noise, help your prospects.

Make it easy. Easy to know who you are and what you do. What you need to do, instead of striving to stand out, strive to resonate with your target market. Target your motivated buyers. Make yourself quickly identifiable as a solution to their need.

If you were looking to buy a new power tool, would you walk into that new business whose sign looks like a youth’s event center? Or if you’re out on a date looking for somewhere to eat, would you try that new eatery that looked like a shoe store?

Look at all the leaders in their industry? Are they swinging for the fences to stand out from each other or do they all look like they belong together?

Banks all look like banks? If they didn’t, would you really trust the ones that looked like a sports bar or teenage clothing outlet? Walmart, Target, Costco – they all fit together. Nike, Reebok, Adidas – Fedex, DHL, UPS – McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King. If standing out were important, why wouldn’t any of these billion dollar companies do something different? Why wouldn’t they stand out with a new and unique logo? Why do they all look and feel similar to each other and their industry?

It’s simple. The goal is to lead the field, not stand outside of it.


Okay, so its obvious now

but why is it that “standing out” seems to be so important with all these creative agencies?

Unfortunately for you, with these modern times, there is a very low entry point for designers to offer their services. All you need is a website and you can be open for business.

And, that’s what “designers” do. They Stand out! Their goal is to impress. The business applications never even register. Their business is selling logos or websites, not making your business compete and grow. They think –  it’s worked for them, so, why shouldn’t it work for you? But you know, I know, any salesman knows, that’s not how you sell customers.

The majority of these providers lack knowledge when it comes to tried and true best practices of communication and advertising, of basic consumer behavior, and just basic salesmanship that makes day to day business thrive.

Think about your own personal shopping behavior when you have a need. How do you behave? Do you trust the one-off business that looks out of place? Or, do you trust the brands and companies that have established themselves within their market?

Disclaimer about fitting in:

I am in no way advising your business to start doing or continue doing what everyone else is doing just because they’re doing.

If I were, then this whole article would be about how you should focus on design and standing out. I am speaking strictly to market trends and expectations set in place by the consumer, not by the providers.

Fit in with consumer expectations and industry standards, do not fit in with your service. Stay true to your business and your service. It’s what makes you unique and valuable to your customers.