Every brand has its genesis as a challenger.
Forbes details how a business lifecycle evolves from startup, to growth; it then progresses to its maturity phase, and finally, is faced with the crossroads labeled ‘renewal’ or ‘decline’.
B R A N D A L I S M is a phrase that was first coined in 2012 where street artists – led by an unknown Scotsman, Robert Montgomery in the black of night – hijacked billboards by plastering B&W typographic poetry over your standard ‘buy-buy-buy-call-to-action’ outdoor media.
These actions tapped into the authority-versus-anarchy zeitgeist, it became a call to arms for street artists, graffiti craftsmen, and vandals alike, and established a cult – albeit illegal – following across the UK, US and Australia.
26 ‘artists’, including Montgomery, brandalised 35 outdoor locations across Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London as an opposition statement to advertising and its ‘destructive impact’ on issues such as body image, consumerism and debt.
At the start of 2020, Bushfire Brandalism was executed at the bus shelters of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane suburbs, in response to the Australian government’s handling of the bushfire crisis.
‘It’s amazing what you can get away with in a hi-vis vest.’
Scott Marsh, an artist from Sydney and one of 41 to participate in this campaign, chuckled that his hi-vis vest was a ‘cloak of invisibility’, while applying a portrait of Scott Morrison that had the words ‘climate denial’ etched into the Prime Minister’s forehead.
Posters with a melting Caramello Koala, pleading ‘Save an Aussie icon’, and Blinky Bill running from a terminal wall of flames, leveraged locally relevant iconography to create rubber-necking moments to engage passersby to magnify the key message that ‘climate change is a reality’.
Considering the recency and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on all of us, Brandalism has been the most prevalent among organisations who have deconstructed their traditional slogans for the sake of encouraging lockdown (in)activity.
Nike is known for producing remarkable work, but it played out of its proverbial boots with the copy on this social media poster:
IF YOU EVER DREAMED OF PLAYING FOR MILLIONS AROUND THE WORLD, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE, Play inside, play for the world.
Jeep reconfigured its trademark circles and vertical lines’ grille (OIIIIIIIO) by using utilitarian objects such as birds’ eye view coffee cup shots, wireless charging pads, and a variety of household remotes to drive its updated #TheGreatIndoors positioning.
Conversely, McDonald’s Brazil didn’t quite manage to read the room. It received its fair share of social media shade when it initiated a ‘supersize lapse in judgement’. Each one of its two arches – that form the globally, recognisable ‘M’ logo – was spaced apart as a Golden Arches social distancing stunt.
Clearly, not all brands can or should vacillate between profiteering and a perceived purpose.
What are your business objectives, what is your manifesto (a greater, more granular and profound approach than ‘purpose’) and how do you intend on impacting your personal – as opposed to public – relations?