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Self-deprecation in advertising is nothing new. In fact, some brands (although very few) even choose to openly parade their flaws, wearing their shortcomings as a badge of honour, instead of something to be embarrassed about.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but in some instances, this approach may make brands appear more likeable.
Volkswagen is a classic example of this, who, in a series of advertisements from the 1960s, labelled their VW Beetle simply as a ‘lemon’. Instead of avoiding the fact that they didn’t look as good as their competitors, they exclaimed “Ugly is only skin deep”. When their competitors were bragging about their high-speed performance, they unashamedly stated that they were “America’s slowest fastback”. In a category full of braggards, VW created true stand out.
Fast forward a few decades. If you have a weakness for chocolate like me, you may remember Cadbury Picnic’s old ‘deliciously ugly’ campaign. Lines like “it has a good personality” and “the reason wrappers were invented” were cleverly crafted to be honest about a superficial feature that consumers cared little about, while still meeting the criteria that was the most important to them – the fact Cadbury Picnic bars tasted good.
The Pratfall Effect
Generally, the ability to poke fun at yourself has long been viewed as an attractive trait. If used correctly, self-deprecation can be a tool that can help you appear more authentic, more relatable and more human.
This phenomenon can be explained by what is known as the Pratfall Effect, a behavioural bias that describes the human tendency to find an imperfect individual more appealing than an individual that that lacks any flaws, so long as two individuals have equal levels of competence.
We’re drawn to people with flaws because ultimately, it’s widely accepted that no one is, or can be, perfect. The façade of perfection can even make us suspicious that we’re being lied to or led on.
The same can be true for brands.
What advertisers can learn from this
We all know that consumers can be distrusting of advertising. It was found in recent a study by The Reputation Institute that only 35% of consumers thought that brands were genuine about what they say and stand for, a 14% decline from 2017.
It’s not difficult to believe that when we are being bombarded constantly by brands telling us how great they are, we can’t help but suspect that they’re doing so to glaze over the things they don’t want us to know.
In a world of increasing consumer distrust, there may be a growing number of people who not only appreciate, but celebrate, self-deprecating brands. Could we create stronger, more likeable brands by not only showcasing their benefits, but also poking fun at their flaws?
At Ponderosa we pride ourselves on developing creative ideas based on clear, relevant insight. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do for your brand, please get in touch.