The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Fashion Gives Planners The Finger …
September 14, 2010, 6:34 am
Filed under: Comment

So a while back, Diesel launched their ‘Be Stupid’ campaign and for all intents & purposes, it’s been well received and regarded as a success.

The thing I find particularly interesting is this success isn’t unique to Western markets, it’s been a hit in Asia as well.

And why do I find that interesting?

Well because if you were to follow the cultural rules of Asian advertising, positioning your brand as anything other than a symbol of status and success would be commercial suicide … as would encouraging behaviour that may make others regard you as being foolish … and yet these are 2 traits that the Diesel campaign prouldy stuck their middle finger at and they’ve still been able to walk away with their heads [and wallets] held high.

Whether this is because we are seeing an appreciation of more Westernised approaches to communication is open to debate … personally I don’t think so because the Asian brand graveyard is littered with companies who have tried this approach and failed [including my beloved friends at Virgin] … for me, I think one of the reasons they have been successful is because they’ve captured the spirit of the category and its fans perfectly.

China is changing.


I’ve always said it lives in dog years but even that might not be a good enough representation to reflect its speed of advancement.

And yet, despite all this growth, societies systems and structures remain the same as they were 20 years ago.

Their approach to education is as regimented today as it has always been.

When you talk about filial expectations, the attitude is as fixed today as it has always been.

It’s a system of conformity where ultimately, unless you are one of the chosen ones [either through wealth, connection or an unnatural talent that is immediately able to be identified] you will follow the same structured path from an early age.

Hey, when you have well over a billion people, that’s understandable – however the interesting thing is that as China has opened up [or pretended to open up so they can take the West for all the cash they’ve got] technology has both developed and penetrated the country, helping China’s young to be more confident to explore and experiment in areas they’re interested in and one of those areas that is most popular is fashion.

It’s no surprise brands like Uniqlo and H&M have been hugely successful here because they offer breadth of fashion at low prices that allows people to mix and match with total abandon. Every day these stores are packed with people buying variety rather than just specific looks – which is why if you now walk down the streets, you’ll see them crowded with a mad array of colour and styles which gives an already obscenely energetic place an even bigger spark.

It’s not so much that China follows fashion but genuinely plays with it – embracing new and extreme looks on a daily basis – not because they want to make a statement, but because they want to explore and experiment … and that is why I think the whole ‘BE STUPID’ campaign has worked because rather than being seen as an encouragement to be ridiculous [which still wouldn’t work on mass because for all the confidence that is rising across the country, it’s still a relatively conservative nation] I believe it’s because it’s been interpreted as a cry to try … where experimentation is good, fun and exciting.

It’s a fascinating time to be here – and probably even more if you’re a fashion retailer – because while many other categories have to follow the ‘cultural rules’, they get to be free, or at least a little.

Still, even with all this freedom to explore , I believe one fashion brand has missed the point [or taken it to far] because despite the fact they’re the sort of label who appeals to rich, old businessmen who think going without a tie is dressing down, their choice of mannequin is downright spooky …

And that wasn’t a one off, check this one out …

Yes, I know they’re probably hoping people will interpret the eagle[?] as a metaphor for successful hunter with power and presence BUT IT’S STILL A BIRDS HEAD STICKING OUT OF THE TOP OF SOME CLOTHES!!!

Jesus, and to think I thought I’d seen the ugliest mannequin in KL!

42 Comments so far
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you fucker. this is an act of war. no one launches a fucking super planner post on innocent bystanders and gets away with it. if george w was still here hed be seeking a un resolution right fucking now. the only reasons youre not going to be blown to fucking smithereens is its not nice to attack the afflicted and those freaky fuck clotheshorse birds are fucking hilarious.

and the diesel stupid campaign is shit. theyve done some hood stuff but thats shit.

so all in fucking all, youve been saved by being a planner because no one can be bothered smacking them down, theyre not worth the effort.

Comment by andy@cynic

How did I guess that would be the response … and for the record, I didn’t say I liked the campaign, infact I think it’s one of their worst – more a line than an idea – but it seems to have struck a chord which shows how fucked civilization is, or said more positively, how society is desperate to be empowered to have moments of freedom of expectation and responsibility.

Now THAT’s planner wank.

Comment by Rob

yep. a great big fucking dollop of planner wank, you with the amount of planner wank you produce, you should open a planner sperm clinic.

Comment by andy@cynic

There’s already a clothing company called American Eagle and even they know better than to do that.

Comment by John

What chance have we got when even China’s birds can make money to buy clothes?

Nice fashion chops there Dodds but I use the term fashion in the loosest possible sense.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Much like your pants.

Comment by John

Trying to get into them are you? Pervert.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I don’t like the Be Stupid campaign, I certainly think they’ve done better in the past, but it does seem to have made a big impact for the brand around the World.

I find it funny that you suggest fashion advertising is not weighed down with the rules of other categories before you proceed to give us a set of rules that you think allowed Diesel to make the campaign successful in China.

Also, if what you say is true, then it’s especially disappointing that so many labels produce a similar style of communication which blends them all together rather than draws them apart.

Still, I find your idea very interesting especially when you put it against the backdrop of China’s cultural and economic change. Even if I question some of the things you’re saying in relation to fashion brand communication, this post is very interesting and informative, not just with fashion brands but Chinese youths attitude to it and their new found perceived freedoms but only you would write all that and then lighten the serious planner mood by throwing in some pictures of the freakiest mannequins I’ve ever seen.

Great post, I will be thinking about what you’ve just said for the rest of the night.

Comment by Pete

only you can disagree in a nice fucking way. hes not your boss anymore pete, maybe a little bit technically, but thats just legal mumbo jumbo shit so you can tell him hes talking crap and not worry about it.

go on, do it.

do it.

all you planners are fucking crawly wimps.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s called being respectful, you should try it some time, you’d be amazed how well people respond to it.

Comment by Pete

why the fuck would i want to give lesser people hope that they might be respected by the wider world? thats just fucking mean.

Comment by andy@cynic

I know nothing about China, but it strikes me that this rebellion against conformity and the idea of playing with fashion is hardly unique. Isn’t that what every new generation in every country is able to do once economic growth develops?

I’d always presumed that Pete was based in the eastern hempisphere; if so, his last sentence is a beauty.

Comment by John

I spent 3 years there but it chewed me up and spat me out which is why I have huge admiration for anyone who can make good things happen there.

You are correct that every generation plays with fashion in their early years, but China is different if only for the fact the choices being made would have nothing to do with rebellion and all to do with freedom of exploration hence the radically different styles being worn each day by the same person.

The Chinese mass population doesn’t “do” rebellion and it’s not because they wouldn’t be allowed to, they love their country and its ways.

Comment by Pete

Now that is something worth thinking about. My immediate thoughts are whether westerners do rebellion either and whether the wearing of radically different styles isn’t itself a form of conformity. But I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Comment by John

To answer your question John, see Pete’s answer … not only is it right, but he’s in such a feisty mood* I’m too frightened to disagree with him.

* Being polite while disagreeing is his version of feisty.

Comment by Rob

Hang on – what do you mean I give a set of rules when I say there aren’t any? Where? All I said was that maybe the Chinese culture made their own interpretation of ‘Be Stupid’ rather than something conscious the brand did.

Still, you disagree with me in such a nice way we’ll just agree to agree I am right, hahaha!

Comment by Rob

stop ripping off brian fucking clough and come up with your own sarcastic retribution. and they say creatives are plagiarists.

Comment by andy@cynic

I know you don’t like being viewed as Mr Planner, but on posts like this it would be good if you resisted the urge to lighten the mood because what you’re saying is very interesting post and should be remembered more than the images of a terrible window display.

Great post.

Comment by Bazza

Thanks Baz, I’ll try …

To be honest, I don’t think I have tried to consciously avoid being seen as a ‘planner’, quite the opposite infact – however having thought about that for a second, I think that might be a good thing as I’d rather be seen as a member of the human race than a member of adland.

Comment by Rob

That might be well & true Robert, but Bazza is talking a great deal of sense. A truly interesting post.

Comment by Lee Hill

Your “chinese” posts are actually very interesting; regardless of what Boucher says. What Boucher says is nearly always right, of course, but this one is very interesting. Because the more you write about the place the more I realise that I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and I think that’s really rather good.

Comment by The Kaiser

Please don’t think I am saying I know what’s going on here, I don’t, the thing is I don’t think anybody – bar possibly certain Government officials do – but that is also because of the speed of change that lives here rather than purely my ignorance.

One thing I would say though is that I love that you say you don’t know … that’s the secret … because the way we tend to look at other cultures is to post-rationalise their actions and then interpret them in a way that makes sense to us and then claim that is the ‘insight’.

That is incredibly wrong because ultimately you can only use your own frames-of-reference as a guide and in the case of China, the experiences of the nation [which is still incredibly vast as the cities of Shanghai etc are more exception than rule] are about as different to some bloke from Nottingham as you can get.

And that’s where my local planners, contacts and Lonely Planet come in.

Comment by Rob

I know a little about fashion, it’s real value to people has always been about using costumes to construct a new identity, shops are dream factories really…teenegers in any culture welcome the opportunity to exlore as soon as they’re given it, they’re finding out who they are and clothes can help them do that.
I know nothing about China so I too welcome the chance to learn something I didn’t before. Not much makes sense, but it will eventually – a bit like a David Lynch film come to think about it.

Comment by northern

I don’t know if comparing a David Lynch film to Chinese culture is genius or an act of war. For your sake, let’s go with the former, at least in terms of an analogy.

And whilst there are elements of what you say regarding youth and fashion that rings true, the subtleties and drivers of those subtleties are quite different and that’s why my point to Marcus’ point is – at least in my mind – so important, but that hasn’t stopped one person in Chinese adland making massive claims about ‘how it all works’ when his exposure is very, very one dimensional and … if I may say it … closeted from the real thing.

Comment by Rob

That’s fair enough I guess, but I believe that the drivers are pretty universal – young people want to experiment, it’s axiomatic. Where it get’s interesting is what happens when that meets the culture they are growing up in, which is where I presume the subtleties come in – and of course, it’s those subtelties that make the difference.
On that, I’m doing this and that on motorcyclists and just about winning the war against deciding to do stuff about freedom and adventure. That’s just scratching the surface of the western (and broadly Amercican) ideal, let alone something more universal.
As usual, I’ve found an image that describes where I think the truth really lies, and can’t find the right words to say what I’m seeing yet.

Comment by northern

Experiment is the key word … too many think it’s about rebellion which it isn’t, especially in China.

The thing is there’s a lot of commonalities – the issue is that there are subtle differences and that’s where you can live or die and sadly where too few people focus attention on.

You’d be great here NP/G, you should come.

Comment by Rob

i ranted about the diesel be stupid strategy on here already. and that was from an australian point of view, where we are already ‘do’ stupid.

‘being’ stupid is not a thing to aspire to (IMHO), but is something that more and more australians are. the execution for this ‘stupidity’ in aus (that i’ve seen) is la-hame. almost more derogatory than ralph/loaded/zoo put together. and it continues to fuck me off.

of course, i didn’t think about the way the interesting part of the strategy itself might translate into the chinese culture. in fact japan would be a brilliant place for it.

so long as it was strategy and not just a universal strap line kind of thing that gets caught up in language.

which i believe it is at the moment.

Comment by lauren

Ralph is way, Way. WAY worse than Loaded. And I helped launch it in Australia which is a crime I should definitely be put away for.

As I mentioned in one of the comments, I think the campaign is one of the weakest I’ve seen from DIESEL for a long time, it feels more about a line than an idea – so I think you have every right to slag it off [I did say you would, ha!] though given everything else in the category is so pretentious and cookie cutter, it would be a hard decision of who is the most in need of a good slap.

Saying that, in the context of a strat rather than an ad, I do think there is merit and relevance – especially in some markets – but as I wrote an overlong post about that, I won’t go into it again, ha!

Comment by Rob

yeah – ‘in some markets’. but they’ve used the line for all of them.

which is, i’m sure you’ve ranted about before, dangerous territory.

Comment by lauren

oh, and given the run of great posts lately, you might wanna change the bit up the top there that says you’ve gone blog lazy.

a chunky post every day is not lazy – you’re on fucking fire!

i’m just sayin’..

Comment by lauren

Wait till you hear the news on Monday’s post – you won’t be saying that then. 🙂

Comment by Rob

that’s twice i’ve pre-empted you. it’s a habit i should give up, clearly.

Comment by lauren

Or you should enter the lottery.

Comment by Rob

very interesting post, i agree. i agree with lauren, being stupid is nothing to aspire to. on the other hand, its different from / opposite of being told you should be the best, the smartest, the most hard working or this and that, which i think is something we all get told almost everywhere. all the friggin time. id say going for “stupid” could be seen as a form of rebellion and freedom, escaping conformity… if that is possible through consumption im not so sure of. and if you go and buy diesel, to escape rules and rise against conformity, you are stupid?.. awesome. i like this stupid campaign more than the dance party thing they had going on in 2008 which i totally disliked for being crude and inhuman. strong words. but it made me think of torture. dont think that is something to be dragged on stage to sell fashion. and there was the meat puppet… it just dawned on me where lady gagas stylist got his inspiration from.

anyway… those mannequins… john said american eagle. i had to think of the u.s. immediately when i saw the pictures. well, right after i remembered the guards protecting ra in the stargate movie lol

Comment by peggy

Go on Peggy, tell TMZ [or whoever the gossip website is] that Lady Gaga got her inspiration from some weird Chinese fashion retailer … that would be bloody awesome.

Saying that, I think stupid can be a good thing – at least when it’s about breaking boundaries or the overly and overtly strict regime – but only for a short burst, embracing it as a way of life is not a good thing, as the Southern states of America demonstrate, ha!

Comment by Rob

you want me to start a campaign accusing lady gagas stylist of rip offs? hes off to thierry mugler. im a little angel, and on second thought, i guess he got his inspiration from the butchers 😉

sometimes, one does things that others would regard as stupid, but it feels right for the one who does them. been there, done that.

on a different note, i hope no one from the southern states reads this blog and identifies so much with their place of origin that they feel offended. nationalism and stuff – the root of much evil.

Comment by peggy

I did some of my best work for a dry shampoo brand, just before I left TBWA – it wasn’t a million miles away from what I think Diesel is trying to do – which Peggy, as usual has put so well…all women stopping achieving,being the best and dreaming of a life they could have and living in the now.
I’ve just seen the work, it’s staged shots of girls drinking cocktails and dancing in nightclubs at 3am. It’s fucking Lambrini.
Unspeakably angry

Comment by northern


Comment by Rob Mortimer

thank you np. there obviously was no need for me to apply blush today.

i feel your anger. its shit to see something you put much energy in, you thought of as right, turned into something that is not there anymore.

Comment by peggy

so campbell, how does that lady di lookalike chinese lingerie ad fit in with your fucking theory then eh?

Comment by andy@cynic

and before you try and say im talking shit, its this one

and i know you fucking know about it because you were the fucker that told me. now answer that with your theory and stay unfashionable.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve always felt this was the weakest Diesel campaign I’ve seen in some time. But I wouldn’t say it was awful.

I much prefer the idea of being stupid in the context of what you wear as opposed to how you act.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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