In a world that’s usually carefully polished and curated, imperfection and even outright ugliness - the quirky, the messy and the flawed - are taking on new appeal. They provide an unfiltered, all too human version of reality that reflects the diversity seen in everyday life.
The rise of the internet saw the interaction between brands and consumers shift from a one-way, faintly sermonising form to an interactive two-way conversation. Brands could still have their say but now, suddenly and strangely, their contribution was part of a dialogue. A back and forth. Consumers could talk back and, for the first time, brands needed to not only brace themselves for the truth, but embrace what people had to say and respond swiftly
While we are not suggesting all brands can suddenly become casual about making mistakes or losing their aspirational sheen, there exists a tangible consumer appetite for less plastic perfection and more reality. And therein lies the opportunity for brands to have a bit of fun.
Hashtags such as #Fail, #Awkward, #FML and #Random dominate social networks revealing a more honest and authentic discourse that eschews airbrushing our experiences and rewards humorous and real accounts of life. Ugly selfies, disastrous baking attempts and stories beginning with ‘That awkward moment when...’ populate the internet on websites such as Pinterest Fail and Cake Wrecks.
So what’s the attraction of the imperfect? Is it that we can relate better to each other and know where we stand? Are flaws a badge of authenticity and individuality? Do they make us more human? Or is it driven by the recognition that the pursuit of perfection has gone too far?
Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.
The Japanese aesthetic 'Wabi-sabi' nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging
three simple realities.
This burgeoning appetite for imperfection is not just limited to the online sphere. The popular TV series, Girls, is known for its provocative take on the ugliness and awkwardness of dysfunctional relationships. Lena Dunham, the series’ creator, said Girls reflects a part of the population not portrayed in the 1998 series Sex and the City.
In recent weeks in Ireland, we have seen the phenomenally successful #nomakeupselfie campaign for cancer research sweep across facebook with women in our own social networks uniting together, donating €4 and posting photos of their bare faces, some with flattering light and blurry lens, others with a no holes barred honesty that wasn’t bothered with airbrushing.
The ‘proudly imperfect’ trend has been evident in communications since Dove launched their Campaign for Real Beauty. Details of this trend, published in January, illustrated lots of great examples of the backlash against airbrushed ideals from the Aerie Lingerie campaign to restaurants where all the produce used was crooked and ‘ugly’, to parenting which has become a bit less controlling and forced. It remains to be seen how far this trend will stretch into other categories. Many communications are still highly stylised and full of beautiful people. Could consumers accept less than perfection from FMCG products or a premium brand?
Life doesn’t resemble a Pinterest board but sometimes it is nice to sidestep the mundanities of life and enjoy a little escapism.
Jo Wood is a Strategic Planner
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