Friday, 15 April 2011

The Diesel Brand and the Cult of Stupidity

The Diesel brand was born more than 20 years ago and is today an innovative international design company, manufacturing jeans and casual clothing as well as accessories. It is present in over 80 countries with 10,000 points of sale and almost 50 company-owned stores.  

From the very beginning, Diesel’s design team rejected the slavish trend-following typical of the fashion industry, turned their backs on the style-dictators and consumer forecasters of the fashion establishment and let their own tastes lead them. In short, the company viewed the world as a single, border-less macro-culture. Today Diesel is a global brand with a consolidated annual turnover of 575 billion Lire (US$ 330 millions), 85% of which is generated outside Italy.

From an agency standpoint, we can only imagine that working on a Diesel campaign would be a great deal of fun.  The Diesel brand seems to acknowledge the stupidity of brands at large (and life and general) becoming a parody and caricature of itself - a mirror to the absurdity of the human condition.  

The essence of all Diesel creative is fun, clever innovation with a touch of mischief - and despite being a global brand Diesel's 'Be Stupid' campaign has provided some breakthrough work in different markets around the world.  You may remember Diesel’s ‘Safe For Work Fruity Porn’ (below) or the recent ‘Diesel Island’ campaign.

The latest example is Diesel’s recent promotion of its footwear in Japan. Diesel wanted to offer consumers a chance to enjoy being stupid, while communicating a 'kick ass' theme to its young, fashion-conscious target audience. So what’s so different about Diesel shoes?  You guessed it. They are superior for 'kicking ass’.  So how do they evidence this simple insight while generating buzz and peaking interest across social networks?

If Diesel sneakers were made for kicking ass (a cultural faux-pas in Japan) then the most obvious choice was to give shoppers the opportunity to test the brand's claim.  A 'Kick Ass Hall' was built at the Nagisa Music Festival where Diesel turned the idea of ‘kicking ass’ into a game. In said game, participants competed to see how far they could kick a willing volunteer (dubbed 'the Asser') down a short track.  

The incentive? A pair of Diesel sneakers of course to the contestant who succeeded in kicking the Asser the farthest down the track.  We should note that the role of ‘Asser’ came with an attractive remuneration package of ¥50,000 per day and the ‘Asser’ recruitment exercise served to generate even more PR hype before the event.

  • The ‘Asser’ recruitment story was ranked the top new story for several days on Mixi news, the largest social network in Japan. 
  • PR coverage equivalent to more than ¥30,000,000, was generated during the course of the campaign, which included coverage in both online and print.
  • More than 3,300 tweets were received during the campaign phase.
  • Diesel received more than 4,960 applications from prospective ‘Assers’
  • All activities generated buzz and product interest all while reinforcing the brand attributes.