Subtle is a cousin of beautiful.
Subtle beauty is almost indefinable and makes your offerings seem special; achieving it requires modesty and self-awareness.
A special business/brand/offerings may desire to exhibit subtle beauty rather than being exhibitionist and objectifying itself.
Those with subtle beauty don’t scream for attention, but instead are happy with who they are without having to manipulate others through using their physical beauty to feel that way.
Subtle design and messaging challenge the user to make her own connections instead of spelling out every detail. Connections we make are more powerful than connections made for us.
If Amazon and Nine West had been called “reallybigbookstore.com” and “tonsofshoes.com” it might have made some early investors happy, but they would have built little of value.
Subtle details demonstrate power. Instead of being in an urgent hurry to yell about every feature or benefit, you demonstrate confidence by taking your time and allowing people to explore.
They don’t put huge banners on the private bankers, announcing how good their packages and how many famous people bank there…
And subtle messaging communicates insider status.
I don’t have to say, “Hey I was working for Deloittes or here I studied my MBA from GIBS! You should hire me!” Instead, a subtle (secret) handshake, the subtle great review about that project you did excellently does all the talking that’s needed.
It is tempting to want the pomp and ceremony, the show-stopper entrance, the make everything just a bit louder.
The opposite is precisely what you might need.
The pomp and ceremony, show-stopper, scream approach usually works for the mass-market.
The mass market by definition is for average products for average customers.
True branding is built when the customer experiences your offerings, not when you make noise about your offerings. It is when you listen to and have conversations with your clients not when you talk to them.
Ps: I’m aware of the oxymoronic nature of spelling out details about subtlety.