You are a successful web designer in the 21st century, working with cutting-edge software and screens.

When it comes to design, what is there for you to learn from dusty print ads from the past?

The answer is, 'a lot.' The Volkswagen 'Think Small' campaign is one of the most well-known print ad campaigns that ever existed.

This was an odd car that got its name from a bug, which is slow and was made by the Nazis that turned to be iconic in America during the postwar era.

It was a fantastic campaign with excellent design of which you can see the designs at Stickeroo .

Think Small

Vehicles made fashion statements, boosted testosterone with muscles on wheels.

Entering the 1950s, Volkswagen and DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) came up with the 'Think Small' campaign to put to end the status of existing automobile ads.

That was the period that vehicles were just means of taking children to school and was built to be fashionable, big and fast, thus earning bragging rights.

Imagine the challenge this would have posed to marketing companies.

The Volkswagen Beetle was the opposite of trending cars; ugly, small, slow and foreign.

But it became an iconic model and pride of America.

Remember this was a Nazi car of post- World War II whose advancement was attached to Adolf Hitler.

How could this vehicle have been popular in a country that had a bitter war experience with the foreign country of this car?

From a marketing viewpoint, the answer is quite surprising; they were straightforward and bravely so.

The ad started by doing the direct opposite of what is normally expected in a car ad.

It makes a presentation on the slowness of Volkswagen and how it doesn't go more than 72mph.

The 'Set the Hook and Reel Them In' Ad

Imagine you woke up in the 1960 and saw this in the newspapers; it might just be confusing to you until you read it. In that moment, you were already enticed. They already have you captivated with a smart copy that appears to really mock their car. What are they trying to achieve? With a VW, speed is turned low and you can still get past those tire and repair shops, as well as fuel stations. The VW engine might be slow but is among the most innovative.

They set up this special car and let you know there is nothing like it. Yes, it is slow but it saves fuel and doesn't need you frequenting a repair shop or burning through your tires. It might not be fast, but it is clever. It was something the everyday people related to and wanted.

Volkswagen Aka VW

In the ads, this car was always called VW rather than Volkswagen. The VW was friendly, kind of fashionable, plain and fresh, unlike the Volkswagen that is mouth-filling and un-American by its pronunciation. This was a thought sown in peoples head without them even knowing it.

A Strong Brand Was Built

Think about a marketing campaign that is simply genius, that is what 'Think Small' is and what certainly makes it one of the ultimate campaign ad that ever existed. To emphasize and strengthen their message, they had to come up with glamorous graphics; that is with a lot of whitespaces. The genius was also continually extended.

The ad wasn't a way of life. The VW was not shown as an important part of an everyday life of the average smiling family. In a white ocean, it is a black spot. To have said 'Think Small' was to have made an ironic statement that was in a way brave and surprising. Who said owning something small was bad after all? It might just have been great.

This is a trick that shows you a new way of seeing the car. It is not that ugly slow foreign car in the midst of American beauties but a unique and distinct design with a strong personality. This ad copy did not just appeal to the family man; it was also popular among teens because of the visuals in the campaign that were personality-focused in high fashion.

Long life

From the 1960s to forward to the 70s Volkswagen was still marketing their cars and doing it in new ways.

They were no longer selling a small car or thinking small, even though the way they sold it were still the same.

The Volkswagen Wagon is the clever choice.

It comes with the combined advantages of a van and wagon in a car that has fuel efficiency in a comfortable seven-seater.


Know Thy Root

Do these names ring a bell: William Bernbach, Julian Koenig and Helmut Krone? Maybe you should try to google them if you don't know them. Would you have been successful in designing without knowing them? Certainly, however, the value cannot be placed on perspective. You might need to know the origin of your profession, how it operated in the past and succeeded over a long period of time. This will give you a sense of understanding and appreciation knowing you are involved in a continuing legacy and not just being a designer per say. Yes, they sold funny cars, so what makes them important? This is over half a century gone and we still examine their brilliance in a microscope. Maybe you too need to carry on with the legacy with great thought and effort into those that still have made an impact even after 50 years. The Volkswagen 'Think Small' campaign is a great case in point of how designers and marketers can captivate the thoughts of a full generation.