Brands Behaving Like Teenagers

22 Oct 2012 - Leah Galmiche


Since brands develop personality and behave like real people they can be segmented by group of similar attitude; just like people. When I saw the ‘Not Normal’ commercial for Mini, I realised that this brand and all its mates reminded me of something: they are the teenagers of the brand society!

I had a growing feeling that more and more brands were conveying a similar attitude to people. It took time for me to identify this trend because these brands come from different categories and don’t have much in common at a first glance. They have different ways of saying it, it could be obvious like Mini’s ‘Not Normal’ or a bit less obvious like Blackberry’s ‘People Who Do And People Who Don’t’, but they all convey the same message to people: BE DIFFERENT. Stop being the boring adult that you are, set your shoes on fire, go down the street on a rocking horse or just shave your head but please, be different.

I find it entertaining to watch, the music is always uplifting and it really makes me want to do something crazy for one minute, but beyond this, it isn’t convincing.

It shouldn’t be only about being different, but about WHY you are different. This is true for being ‘the best’, clever, trusted or funny as well. In the same way that a clown doesn’t say that he is funny but makes you laugh, brands should have a personal and substantial proposition that makes them, and the people buying into it, different.

I really don’t think that consumers are convinced when a brand says explicitly (and exclusively) that buying its product will make them different. Of course they want to be different, but it won’t happen just by buying the product because:

– It would show that they don’t like who they are, and no one likes showing this.

– People don’t buy into brands because they want to be different, but because they think of themselves as already different. They buy into brands that reflect an original aspect of themselves that they value. Being different for the sake of it is actually perceived as a shortcoming.  It is silly and juvenile.

– Fundamentally everybody wants to be different so it would show how much they are just like everybody else. It is the equivalent of telling to people “remember you are unique. Just like everyone else.”

What I find amusing is that this is exactly the same challenge that teenagers have: they all want to be different. In essence, teens are looking for which kind of person they are. They are not sure of their personality yet, but all they know is that they must be different. This is how I ended up dyeing my hair purple when I was 15. I thought that it was a great way to express who I truly was, but when half of the school had the same haircut I had to find something else. I had very unfortunate fashion taste back then but thank god (and my mother’s authority) it stopped before it became too much of an embarrassment. Then it took me time and introspection to think about who I really am and HOW it makes me different.

I see quite a lot of brands in the same ‘in-between’ situation that seem to be confused with brand differentiation and promising people they will be different buying their products. This nuance is what separates a great campaign like Apple ‘Think Different’ from a cliché ad like Mini ‘Not Normal’. At the time of ‘Think Different’, Apple was positioning its own products and values as different from the market and was targeting people who saw themselves as open minded and adventurous. Think Different’s proposition is that by not being conformist we can change the world and Apple highlighted the people throughout history who show this, aligning the brand with those personalities. This certainly isn’t an empty proposition. Apple did think differently and they did change the world.

Unfortunately from my point of view the new Mini work tries too hard and has lost its fun bite. In Mini’s ‘Let’s Motor’ campaign, it was the actual experience of driving a Mini that was fun-fuelled.  The new work seems to suggest that you need to be riding a Mini on two wheels, executing hand break turns in a room full of paint or driving with a giant duck strapped to your roof to get the same kind of buzz.  This completely undermines the fun value of the car itself, which is precisely what Mini’s incredible success has been built on to date, and it can only appeal to people lacking of personality.


In other words, if Apple’s ‘Think Different’ was Che Guevara then Mini’s ‘Not Normal’ is the T-shirt with el Che’s face on it that a 14 year old is wearing.

It means that brands aren’t like real people yet: brands can afford to be different for the sake of it, but people can’t. People need substance. So if you ask me what is the ultimate long term strategy to appeal to people I would say exactly what my mum told me when I was 15:

Be true to yourself.