Most Advanced Yet Acceptable: Why it pays to stretch your audience

Why the MAYA principle – conceived in the 1930s – still rings true today.

A few years back, I worked at a company called Loewy. It was an agency originally founded by Raymond Loewy – a chap often billed as the ‘father of industrial design’.

TIME magazine once hailed Loewy as the man who ‘made products irresistible at a time when nobody really wanted to pay for anything’.

He first made his mark in the 1930s and for 40 years was a creative tour de force.

As a design consultant to more than 200 companies, Loewy created radical new product designs for a whole range of things: cigarette packs, refrigerators, cars, and even spacecraft. From streamlining the Coca-Cola bottle to making Studebaker cars all the more curvaceous – chances are you’ve seen his work, even if you’ve never heard of the man.

Raymond Loewy • 'Most Advanced Yet Acceptable: Why it pays to stretch your audience' Earnest Ideas and Insights

Raymond Loewy

Interestingly, Loewy was a proponent of the MAYA principle – Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.

His explanation was: “The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.”

MAYA is about pushing things just about as far as you can, without them snapping.

Relevant as ever

MAYA is a principle that’s just as relevant to product designers, brand managers and marketers today – if not even more so.

For me, it’s about pushing things just about as far as you can, without them snapping.

It’s about tuning into the needs of your audience – and stretching their imagination – and then some, but still being eminently buyable.

It’s about turning heads for all the right reasons – not the wrong ones.

It’s a difficult balance, Loewy knew that and that’s why he was a master of what he did.

Too advanced – and you’re too much of a risk. Just acceptable and you fade to grey – one of many vying for attention.

The iPhone was MAYA. Google Glass wasn’t.

Prince was MAYA. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince wasn’t.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was MAYA. Protein’s Beach Body ready was neither advanced nor acceptable.

Being the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable may not be easy. That’s why way too much B2B Marketing settles for Acceptable. But turning it up a notch can make a huge difference, in terms of impact and commercially. Because as the master of streamlining once said himself: ‘the most beautiful curve is a rising sales graph’.