This is not an ode to the underworld. It isn’t even a portrait of the world’s [dirty] underwear. It is a description of a new marketing concept: The new Value-Added is Nothing.

In the un-world, the value added in the consumer’s eyes is the lack of complication. We, as consumers, are looking for plain simplicity, what you see is what you get. We are fed up with over-gadgetized phones or the inevitable surprises in the small print of contracts. Witness the ad by phone company “3” in the UK selling “And no sneaky cash back.”.

In the search for un-complicated, we lust for the simple, stripped down product. The product provides us what WE want, HOW we want it. Brands that are on the case in different domains include Apple, Target or Trader Joe’s grocery stores. These companies are providing unfettered value. A transparent combination of simple and functional (best in class). Other examples of the power of the the un-complicated are “Real Simple” (US magazine) or M&S’ 173 Simply Food outlets, of which M&S is opening up on average 3 per week and showing that proximity and customized offering is very much necessary and possible for a large chain.

Consumers are nonetheless eager for the Un-expensive. Armed with at-your-fingertip price comparison sites, we know a penny saved is another penny to spend. If a bargain doesn’t cost too much time…

A survey by Outlaw Consulting of 21-27 yrs old showed the appreciation of brands like Jet Blue and H&M, where un-expensive doesn’t rule out being hip. In fact, Un-attractive or dorky (example in-n-out burgers) can be entirely “in”.

For some, the un-commercial brands garner a more authentic trust (e.g. Ben & Jerry’s cow to cone communication inset). And trust is a key word in the consumer’s mind space.

And, in a slap at the overbearingly commercial conferences with repetitive, stultifying formulaic (preset agendas, speakers, badges, rooms, agendas, microphone challenges, cheap pens and bad sweets), comes the creation of Unconferences. These are “gatherings” that break the mould by permitting the attendees to all come as speakers, with topics that can be ad-libbed. [Note to self: attend an unconference asap].

And, in these days of turbulent, time-starved activities, it was fun to see the advertisement to “Unwind at Earls Court”. In un-wind, we are looking to eliminate the toxins, remove ourselves from the ratrace, untangle our emotions. Another off the wall example, Karen Ryan’s Unmade 07 vases–where “Ryan partially removes patterns from antique plates and vases.” The result is a ‘simplified’ pattern with an echo (or a recycling) of the past.

The unworld is everywhere once you start to look for it. And, of course, there is no harm in being Un-ique as well.

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