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Lessons from a Giant Rubber Duck

September 17, 2014

The giant rubber duck is making rounds in the news again, this time popping up in the Port of Los Angeles for the city’s popular Tall Ships Festival. This enormous 60-foot version of the iconic childhood bath-time toy has been spotted in some of the world’s most famous harbors over the last few years, sparking the curiosity of thousands of people and inciting a media frenzy every time it sails into town.


Giant rubber duck at Tall Ships Festival, San Pedro, CA. August 2014. Photo: Port of Los Angeles

So why is it that this massive duck has gone viral?

From a marketing and branding perspective, the giant duck, which was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, is actually a great example of approaching something simple in an eye-catching and unexpected way.

In today’s saturated media, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that in order to stand out among the crowd, you have to use imagery that’s bold and complex – something no one has ever seen before.

However, as we see with the popularity and viral nature of the giant rubber duck, sometimes the approach is much more important than the object itself. The rubber duck is far from a unique, new concept, but blow it up to 60-feet and put it in an unexpected place, and all of a sudden its spreading through social media and news outlets like wildfire.

You can apply a similar approach to your brand by utilizing simplicity in unique, eye-catching ways. You can do this in a number of ways, but here are 3 tips to consider:

  1. Pair simple colors with a unique brochure size.

    Use a smaller color palette, and make your brochure or other print collateral a unique size, like a 9” x 9” square or 12” x 5” wide rectangle. Let the approach, in this case the size of your materials, make a lasting impression with your audience. Plus, you’ll continue to stand out among your competition when your odd-shaped brochure peeks out from a stack of brochures.

  2. Find a single image that resonates with your audience.

    Collages tend to be everywhere these days, and while you may have a number of related images you want to incorporate into a project, having so many photos may detract from their intended purpose. You may want to use a single image that really appeals and resonates with your audience. This one image may prove to be more memorable and leave a lasting impression, in turn giving your brand more recognition.

  3. Substitute in-depth detail with brief, yet powerful, messages.

    People are inundated with a constant stream of news and advertising on a minute-by-minute basis. The “Age of the Internet” has bred a new kind of audience, and unfortunately this audience has little tolerance for long paragraphs or pages and pages of text. Instead of counting on an in-depth description of your organization and/or services, you may only have a few seconds to catch their attention. Make the most of your first impression with brief, yet carefully crafted messages. Be sure these messages convey relevant, easy to remember information.

It’s important to remember that sometimes less really can be more, if you approach it in the right way. Could a 60-foot abstract work of art sticking out from the Port of Los Angeles have been newsworthy too? Yes, of course anything is possible, but it’s likely the giant rubber duck has made a lasting impression because it’s a simple, everyday object that has been reimagined and presented to the public in an extraordinary way.