Simplicity in a sea of white space

Your marketing goal is to make your credit card something that people aspire to own.  You focus on higher-spending customers, create tiers of cards with points and rewards for different customer, and refuse to lower fees, even when a credit crisis hit.  Lo and behold, over the next six years or so, your market share increases eight-fold to 16% and your monthly transaction volume is now the second largest of any card issuer in the country. 

So what do you do next?  What’s your marketing message to prospective cardholders in your largest city?  This is a trick question…because we’re not talking about a U.S. credit-card issuer.

If you’re Hyundai Card in South Korea, your next move is to spend $2.2 million for exclusive rights to blitz subway riders in Seoul for the next three years.  You don’t use all that space to talk about benefits, tout promotional rates, or show people what they could buy with their new cards.

Less is more in Seoul subway stations
Less is more in Seoul subway stations

What Hyundai did was leave all that space pretty much blank.  Inside the station, giant wall signs are all white, except for a small icon that symbolizes one of the company’s services (e.g., a car for card loans) along with a small company logo. 

At the entrance and exits of the stations, the giant white panels have a pink eraser in the lower-right corner and a two-sentence tagline.  “The world is flooded with too many ads,” it says.  “For a short while, we want to leave it empty for you.”

There are few things more simple than white space, and probably few things more appreciated than a respite from the daily onslaught of marketing messages.  Bulldog Simplicity salutes Hyundai Card for its restraint and vision, hopes that it keeps the ads up for more than “a short while,” and wishes other marketers closer to home might steal a page from their book.


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