Could a Great Insight Backfire?

Quick Read: Rooted in a universal insight about play and its potential, Barbie’s new film is brilliant. But could that very insight be its undoing? 

Using imagination as the USP to sell something is nothing new.

But using imagination as a means to reshape a brand’s narrative into that of a more affirmative and purportedly more inclusive discourse is.

At least that’s what the new Barbie campaign does. To good effect.

In a new film by BBDO called “Imagine The Possibilities”, Barbie speaks of the power of imagination that allows girls to explore their potential.

It’s twitter page shows how the brand has begun to drive conversations around topics like inspiring confidence, celebrating boldness, encouraging self expression and calling out the ‘inner superstar’.

For a brand that has often been accused of perpetuating an epidemic of body hatred, this campaign seems to hold promise in getting parents to reappraise the role Barbie can play in a child’s life. At least a cursory look into the comments in the film’s YouTube page seems to suggest so.

The film is great because of its brilliant insight – when a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything that she can become.

But ironically it is this very insight that could be its undoing. 

If when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything that she can become, wouldn’t such an imagination naturally get rooted in a (misguided) notion –  i.e., the notion that her dream of becoming this someone could be a function of her growing up to look as ‘perfect & pretty’ as the Barbie dolls seem to her?

The jury is out.

Only time will tell if this can make any substantial dent in the brand imagery for Barbie in the long term beyond the seemingly positive discourse of “seek your inner superstar”.

Meanwhile, did you hear about Lammily?


It is feted as as the “first fashion doll with realistic proportions”.

[Bonus Link: Did you know that every woman in every Disney/Pixar movie in the past decade has the exact same face? You should check this out.]

(Featured Image source:

Imagination. For Selling and Unselling

Quick Read: Evoking imagination has always been a classic trick in the marketers’ book. Let’s see some recent examples where it’s been used to sell. And to unsell.

Man-eaters and the ritual of imagination

For four years, Dutch designer Daniel Disselkoen made the same journey on the same tram route to his art academy, and realised that he had stopped looking out of the window and being curious about what he might see. So he developed a simple little real-world hack called Man-eater.

Predicated around the idea that familiarity with a subject, our environment, surroundings or routine can limit discovery, Man-eater is a simple yet compelling call to action to invoke our imagination to make extra ordinary out of the ordinary.

Is at about seeing the world through a child’s eyes? 

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood (yes, there indeed is a museum by that name!) says exactly the same thing in its recent campaign – wherein with a bit of imagination, the medium and the context become the key parts of it’s message. spaceman_aotw


(Check out the other executions at this blog post)

Banana Bunkers that look like…um.. bananas?

It appears that it doesn’t require a hell lot of imagination to see why this particular product of GroupOn turned to be its most popular post on Facebook ever! Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 11.28.33 PM But GroupOn’s real imaginativeness came to the forefront in what happened after the post went live.

Knowing full well of what is to come, they decided to stay ahead of the hilarity and replied each and every one of the comments on their Facebook post. Check out this snapshot of the epic comments that followed!

Now that’s some great imaginativeness to combat (and perhaps even abet) imagination!

And meanwhile else where..

Can imagination be used to ‘unsell’?

The Gun Shop‘ had recently popped up on Manhattan with a store front that read “First Time Gun Owners” in big, bold letters. The catch? Each gun in the store had been tagged with its history: from shooting a mom in Walmart to the Sandy Hook massacres. The result: imagination that just ‘unsells’!

This video captures it well.

The Gun Shop has been a pop-up demonstration created by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence – a partner of States United Against Gun Violence that seeks to make families and communities safer.

Can you think of any other examples? 

(Man-eater –  H/T Neil Perkin | Museum of Childhood – H/T L.Bhat)

Featured Image: The Gun Shop store front on Manhattan, Source

Power of Imagination. Unleashed

It’s funny – I just realized a recent happening in the world of brands that has, in a queer way, connected my previous 2 blog posts.

Speaking about Apple and Minimalism, I have posted designer Wonchan Lee’s much acclaimed minimalistic posters that are inspired from Pixar’s famous characters.

You would see that in each of these posters, Wonchan Lee has sought to, and incredibly succeeded at, bringing out  the personality of each character by using almost only the eyes, and leaves no doubt about who these characters are (to someone who is familiar with these movies – Up, Wall-E, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Monsters Inc (Sully), Toy Story, Ratatouille and Finding Nemo – in that order). His website says that each of these posters come in Synthetic Matt finish and an A3 size comes for 25$. Given the pull factor that these minimalist posters could have, as they challenge the viewer and plays with his/her imagination, I am sure these would have many takers – potentially also spawning fakes!

Cut to my previous post on brands that use the inherent limitations/constraints of their ‘system’ to create a commonly identifiable set of shared experiences among the user base and thereby make ‘tribes’ of them. One of the examples that I wrote about was Lego – a brand that was literally built by its famous and consistent ‘Lego bricks’. My argument was, given that each of these bricks are functionally similar to each other (for over decades!), they come with very similar set of capabilities and constraints for any given user across the world. Thereby any interesting possibility that can be realized out of these bricks tends to be limited only by the user’s imagination and subsequently spurs the other members of the tribe as an inspiration or a challenge. If you stop for a moment and reflect upon these dynamics, it would be evident that Lego is also speaking (in a focussed way) to an adult (as a potential consumer), an adult who loves to exercise his creative/exploratory capabilities to his/her ‘playful fullness’; an adult who is imaginative and yes fun loving.

Probably it is along these lines that Lego has commissioned the following line of Print Ads with the help of an agency named Jung von Matt.


Essentially, these are minimalistic interpretations of popular cartoon-characters. Can you guess who’s who? I loved their simplicity and the power of imagination that is evoked by these executions. Squarely hits at the bulls eye of their ‘adults’ target group and seeks an undivided quantum of their attention by means of this ‘Guess-Who’ kind of dialogue/challenge that they are playfully throwing at them.

Being, not super comic-savvy, I set out to Google around and tried to build parallels with the actual cartoon characters referenced in these executions. Following is what I could knit together as an exercise for myself.

(Cartoon referenced: South Park)

(Cartoon referenced: Uncle Scrooge and the nephews: Huey, Dewey, and Louie)

(Cartoon referenced: The Simpsons) – this is my 2nd favourite!

(Cartoon referenced: Asterix, Obelix and Dogmatix)

(Cartoon referenced: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) – this is my 1st favourite!

(Cartoon referenced: Bert and Ernie)

I should say that I am very inspired by this upcoming trend in brand communications that seeks to engage the consumer, grab an undivided pie of their attention (even if it is for a sliver of a moment) and evoke their imagination so that they discover something by themselves and thereby are entertained.

That is the power of imagination. Unleashed.