Twee, But Sinister

ZOcn1BME_400x400Would you trust someone who’s always smiling at you?

Marketers seem to be obsessed with their brand being shown in a positive light.

Perhaps it’s due to studies such as these, that show likability is strongly correlated with purchase.

(Though arguably it works the other way around – something you purchase more, you’re going to like more – familiarity complex.)

Or a spill-over from ideas of PR and social buzz, that brands must have a ‘positive’ sentiment, not negative.

Or just gut feeling, that being likeable as a brand must be good for sales.


The problem is that this idea of ‘positivity’ is seen as a way of getting to a good outcome, rather than a happy accident of a damn good marketing strategy.

So from the product itself (never mocked or made fun of or played with)

through to the people in the advert (everyone is beautiful and must smile)

to the whole tone of the advert (optimistic).

I can copy-paste the tone of campaigns between briefs: positive, optimistic, happy, joyful.

Where’s the differentiation in that?
FMCG marketers are the absolute worst for this.

They even try to brand it and bottle it as their sole purpose – Open Happiness; Taste The Feeling; Feel The Joy.

Let alone the success of Innocent setting off a whole spawn of cutesy, joyous imitators.

Yes, food and drink make people happy.

Thank you, basic survival instinct.


But, once upon a time, FMCG marketers understood they could have other tones – and to do so, would make them distinct and memorable in the marketplace.

(Byron Sharp’s wet dream.)


They could be twee, yet sinister.

They could be cannibals.

They could be the product of an affair.

Or hunted to death, like the Ribena berries, squished into the drink.

Or like Tango, they could be brutal and violent, starting happy slapping before its time.

(And props to my homie Thomas Keane’s ad for Homepride Fred, that was sinister enough to spawn horror film remixes.)


We live in a world in which teenaged Youtubers quickly knock all their edges off and bland-ify themselves in order to secure corporate sponsorship

(“Oh take this girl off the influencer list, she once did a video about how to put on a condom. Pick the guy who talks about how to cook pasta instead.”)

Maybe it’s time for corporations to reclaim radicalism.

(Did Pepsi fail because it didn’t go far enough?)


I want adverts for tea where the tea bags are selected for drowning; where the toast is ripped apart limb by limb; and where the cheesecake begins a guerrilla warfare style food fight.

Because hunger is as much savage as it is joyous.


(With thanks to planner Jack Carrington for the title & Unigate dwarves inspiration.)


Creative Disorientation & Deciem

Adownload-24 cool, new brand I’ve seen building up recently is Deciem: The Abnormal Beauty Company, owner of the excellent ‘The Ordinary’ skincare brand.

The Ordinary – for those of you who don’t follow the beauty pages – is one of the fastest growing beauty brands of all time. It sold 30,000 products within two weeks of launch, and caused a shockwave across the beauty industry. Simply, excellent, technical ingredients at cheap prices, in simple packaging.

But lets look at the master brand of Deciem. So far, so hipster beauty company – the black buildings, the use of white space, the bold font, the vaguely industrial chic vibe.


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But wait, there’s one thing about Deciem that really strikes me.




They really love monkeys.

There are monkeys everywhere. Their employees are called monkeys. Their website is covered in monkeys. The monkey is their mascot, symbol, brand character – call it what you will. And I even clicked on the very weird Facebook ad about a monkey demanding a coin from me, only to be given a £1 offer on their serum.

I’ve seen plenty of new beauty brands come in, and none have really stuck in my head the way Deciem has. And why? There’s no faces or airbrushed models or glamour shots here, no Instagram-worthy envy-inducing shots.

Instead, a furry monkey, to advertise a beauty company.

Imagine trying to sell that to L’Oreal…

The Glue Society believed that there should always be “one degree of creative disorientation” in their adverts. So an advert for a car insurance might have a man holding a cream eclair the whole way through, for no apparent reason.

In an age of advertising where we know the real battle is for attention, having quirks and oddities to your creativity is not just an arty luxury – it is a business necessity.