Today's consumers know that the world isn't always perfect, but they are quick to recover from setbacks and boldly move forward.
Highly politicized and visual-first, they prefer to interact with vibrant media, rather than the cliched campaigns they see from older corporate dinosaurs who don’t seem to understand the way new culture works.
These mainstream brands continue painting a feel-good, Utopian vision of the world which seems increasingly fake and dishonest. More luxury brands are fearlessly showing another side of the story, being bolder in using humor, conflict and or contradiction to engage their target audience.
By presenting themselves ‘warts and all’, these innovators stand out from the bland, all-pleasing brands, and are getting better at leveraging real-world friction to their advantage. This more honest view of the world doesn’t just help the brands make room for movement but it allows a more playful, tongue-in-cheek appeal.
No one is perfect, not even brands. Examples of companies creating subversive advertising to communicate powerful messages and undermine their competitors below.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
The team behind cult YouTube sensation series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared has launched a clothing collection based on its colourful characters. The series features Sesame Street-style puppets in disturbing and darkly comic scenarios.
Known best for its dark and witty humor, the DHIS youtube series have over 800,000 subscribers and millions of views, highly popular amongst Millennials.
The collection includes a Talking Clock backpack, a Red Guy-inspired knitted jumper and a t-shirt based on the mysterious Yellow Guy’s dad.
Cup a Soup
In the latest advert for Cup a Soup, British reality TV star Joey Essex "seductively" presents an exotic bowl of Cup a Soup. The handsome boy shows off his tan and muscular body tone, highlighting the ‘phenomenally thick’ texture of its Mediterranean Style Tomato and Red Pepper soup. An angelic soundtrack mimics the seductive tone typically used to sell naughty treats such as ice cream and coffee to unsuspecting viewers. The advertisement appeals to consumers’ sense of humour, acknowledging that nobody is perfect, not even brand.
The brand was keen to include a healthy dollop of satire in the blend. In behind-the-scenes footage, on the celebrity’s Instagram account, we learn he is blissfully unaware of the product’s supposed origins. ‘I’m not going to lie,’ explains Essex. ‘I don’t know where the Mediterranean is, or what the Mediterranean is.’
Spanish fashion label Wellness has now created it's own water brand called Dubai. The core brand values were inspired by the contemporary idea of wellness in a physical, spiritual and mental sense. As a result, the advertising campaign reflects the current rift between promotion and product. Instead of promoting a squeaky clean look, Wellness created a post-corporate aesthetics while tapping into today’s visual first culture.
Dubai water consists out of three different lines: Blue Sky Water, an eco-conscious drink, with 100% sustainable credentials. Dubai+ is a zero-calorie energy drink aimed at fitness fanatics. And Dubai Kids is an educational tool that gives ‘Power 2 the Kidz’.
Khiels: the ‘epidemic of ageing’
Martha Stewart, Alex Baldwin, Chloe Sevigny and other celebrities have done voice testimonial for skincare brand Kiehl’s new series of films that satirise the claims made by anti-ageing brands.
The 165-year-old brand, which rarely advertises its products, also collaborated with Paramount to promote Zoolander 2, which premiered at the Derek Zoolander Centre for People Who Don’t Age Good pop-up in New York. In a playful spin on the lofty claims made by skincare brands about the benefits of their products, all of the stars are played by child actors.
Framed in the testimonial ad style favoured by skincare brands, the stars applaud the virtues of Kiehl’s products. In one film, a young child in a sharp suit, reveals himself to be none other than 57-year-old Alec Baldwin and implores viewers to leave their old self behind.