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What Subcultures Can Teach Brands

We live in an age where, despite the growing antipathy of consumers towards advertising, more and more brands are afraid to stand out from category conventions, blending into the background. Have we forgotten the lessons in disruption, distinctiveness and - sometimes - polarisation that subcultures can teach us? 

Inspired by our Mettle ‘Power up what you do’ campaign, we share tips on how brands can harness the motivations of their audiences and channel them through emotional, cultural and creative lenses, to talk to their consumers in a way that none of their competitors do.

Rebel against norms

For Mettle, the mobile business bank for the self-employed, category norms hero the entrepreneur - putting them on a pedestal and saluting them for their bravery. We knew that sort of vacuous celebration of one person wouldn’t resonate with our audience, nor would it build memorability. Leaning into 90’I s grunge metal helped the brand find a different kind of swagger and space in the category and opened up a totally unexpected and ownable brand language and universe.

Find your tribe

On the surface, Mettle’s audience couldn’t be more disparate and diverse. From freshwater fisherman to plasterers, the audience spans a huge range of ages and walks of life. Through audience research and a deeper understanding of what drives them, we unearthed something more powerful that united them; their commitment, hunger and drive to earn, to make money, to be successful. Instead of leaning into demographics or lifestage, this became powerful fuel for creating an attitudinal tribe.

Commit creatively

To truly embrace subculture in an authentic way, every decision has to be treated as an opportunity to be singular, specific and distinctive. The campaign was shot with a director who makes this stuff for real, with bands like titans Bring Me the Horizon. Our track was from an upcoming British metal band. Nothing about what we did was the done thing in the world of banking.

Embrace the marmite factor

Our creative output was loud, visceral and raw. Ultimately, capturing an energy that reflected the spirit of our audience in a way nothing else could.  In a world where agencies and clients are too often led by the pursuit of work that pleases everyone - at the risk of engaging no one, we encourage more people to revisit the words of the late Bill Bernbach: “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you.”

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