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The Experience Brands Weekly #137

Showing Your Flaws: A Brave Brand Strategy

Last Friday we had the pleasure of attending an event about Behavioural Economics in Advertising, put on by the guys at WARC. Five top speakers in the field took to the floor to present their perspectives and theories. The one that really stood out for us though and that got us thinking was a presentation from Richard Shotton (Deputy Head of Evidence, Manning Gottlieb OMD). He presented an intriguing argument about the appeal of admitting your flaws in brand communications.

He had us intrigued from the get go by jumping into an anecdote about Iain Banks’ “Wasp Factory”, we were at first unsure about its relevancy to behavioural economics... However, it all became clear when he told us about Banks’ audacious decision to display both the harshest, as well as the best, reviews on his debut novel’s blurb. It was a decision that paid off for Banks as by openly displaying his novel’s flaws and critics it made the positive reviews stronger and more believable.

Openly displaying and showing your flaws is a seemingly risky strategy for brands and it is little wonder why many shy away and try to cover their flaws. Shining a light on a flaw at first glimpse would appear to be self-sabotage to any brand. Consumers these days though are notoriously sceptical and the old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”, carries a lot of weight. We are wary of people that appear flawless, assuming that there is something bubbling beneath the pristine surface just waiting to come out, we even actively dislike these kinds of people (nobody roots for Mr Perfect). In contrast we like rounded characters, they are interesting, believable and like ourselves - the same is true of brands. A brand that tries to cover or hide its flaws is perceived by consumers as either lacking self-awareness or downright deceptive, neither being particularly appealing. By owning up to a flaw a brand is in a position to take control of it and can be tactical about the flaw they choose to show, in the process they are able to draw attention to an important positive attribute. As consumers we are hardwired to view the owning up to a flaw as a show of honesty.

There are numerous examples out there of brands that have chosen to portray a specific flaw tactically in order to boost and highlight a positive:

  • Stella told us that they’re a quality beer whilst informing us that their product is expensive with the strapline “reassuringly expensive”
  • Guinness drew attention to the quality of their beer whilst drawing attention to the faff of waiting for it to be poured with the strapline “good things come to those who wait”
  • Avis suggest that they’ll try harder than their competitors because they’re only number 2
  • VW Beetle’s famous campaign when they launched their product in America drew attention to it being both ugly and small in order to suggest that it was a quality car on the inside
  • RyanAir have never allowed us to believe that their airplanes are in any way unsafe because they’re so cheap, instead they have openly admitted that the low cost is at a detriment to the service on offer – something we are much more willing to accept
  • Hans Brinker are proud of how terrible their hostels are – but in doing so they highlight just how fun they are




These are some great examples of brands taking ownership of their flaws in an interesting and engaging way. They all display self-awareness and in doing so we are drawn to them, they are refreshingly honest. It would be great to see more brands be daring and present the unphotoshopped image of themselves to us, allowing us to see all their curves and all their edges. We believe that if done right, with a little bit of humour, consumers would like the brand more for allowing us to see all their perfect imperfections…



Amazon Treasure Truck

Amazon have come up with a fun idea to treat their customers, by creating an ice cream like van that travels around neighbourhoods of Seattle offering special deals. You can only find the treasure truck through the amazon app and you have to be in Seattle. If the Treasure Truck is nearby, you will get a notification from the amazon app letting you know it’s in your area. We like this because its a mysterious and innovative way of interacting and rewarding consumers. We’re just disappointed they haven’t created their own version of the famous ice cream van tune.



The North Face: Seek No Shelter

The North Face and Spotify have teamed up to create a music track that can only be listened to when it rains in your area. It’s part of the “Seek No Shelter”

campaign which celebrates rain to promote their new jacket “Apex Flex GTX” which is the first ever fully waterproof softshell rain jacket. The track is rain themed and the artists creating it are White Denim. It will be available on Spotify in the areas of the U.S where it is raining.

The song will also be premiered at Fader Fort at SXSW in Austin as an immersive experience. The stage design is the eye of the storm and the look, sound and feel of the storm will be recreated on stage with mist and cool air and the smell of fresh rain. People in rainy locations in the U.S can visit to unlock the single and listen to the “Rainey Day Playlist” created by The North Face.



Ted Baker: Keeping Up With The Bakers

Ted Bakers newest ad is an interactive shaoppable 360 video. Keeping up with the Bakers is a new fabricated world where everything is pastel coloured and set out like a soap – opera. The ad follows the Baker family around their home where the customer can reveal hidden content and purchase the clothing as worn by the characters in the 360 video.  We like it because it is a revolutionary way of advertising and shopping on the internet. It is a truly quirky and surreal way to view and purchase your items.