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Why Brands Embrace the “Perfectly Imperfect”

Gone are the days where marketing is about depicting this “perfect life.”   

What even is a perfect life? One where you use paper towels to wipe down an already spotless kitchen counter, or where foundation is applied to flawless skin?   

Brands are stepping away from this tactic to show real, flawed, perfectly imperfect situations. And in the end, it’s better than perfect. 

Why “perfect” marketing doesn’t work:  

Back in the day, it was a sound strategy to show perfect scenarios to make people strive for perfect scenarios. In many cases, the driving factor behind this type of marketing is shame. The overall message is “your life should be this perfect – if it’s not, you’re failing.” This shame is supposed to cause people to flock to the product.   

But how does it feel when you see a life that is shinier, fancier, cleaner, or prettier than you own? Not great. You certainly don’t see yourself in that idyllic depiction. When you don’t see yourself in life, it’s nearly impossible to feel connected to the brand creating it.  

Let’s face it – humans aren’t perfect. And when “perfect” is shown to us, it will never seem genuine.  

In the grand scheme of business, the switch from perfect to imperfect is pretty new and still happening. In fact, it wasn’t long ago for it to be considered vulgar to show anything less than ideal – and brands are still pushing back on bizarre limitations on just how “imperfect” life can be depicted.   

For example, look at feminine hygiene commercials. Up until recently, menstruation was shown as blue-dyed water – nowhere close to the real deal. I’ve only just seen companies starting to visualize a period using red liquid.  

Treating menstruation as taboo keeps the “perfect” scenario alive – no matter how unrealistic it is. Many ad placement companies over the years have stopped brands from even using direct terminology like “period” or “menstruation”, calling it inappropriate. Regardless of the outdated perspective on appropriate some ad decision-makers hold, people who have periods have been showing a significantly positive reaction to the transparent take on the menstruation experience. They say “we’ve seen that, and we’ve been there.”   

How “perfectly imperfect” makes an impact  

The buck doesn’t stop at red blood. Relatability is the name of the game – the secret weapon that will forge a connection between your brand and your customer. Industries across the board have the opportunity to depict, life-like, flawed situations that still show their brand and product in the best light.   

Nike came out with an ad that stepped away from showing the best of the best – for a moment. While most of us can’t relate to the physical ability of Serena Williams or Alex Morgan, we can relate to trying 20 tennis serves, and only making one. Or spending an hour in the water to not catch even one wave. Nike puts trying and failing up on a pedestal, showing us that even though we aren’t Olympians, we are all athletes in the making, no matter what start of that journey we are in.   

And it doesn’t stop at our personal physical ability – what about life itself? Pepsi created this commercial as an homage to the mess that we can look forward to once we shed our post-pandemic apprehensions. This commercial is not pretty, and you crave hand sanitizer after watching it. But, this messy, germy way of life is much closer to our own than most polished ads depict. And there is a strange and comfortable beauty in that.   

It doesn’t even have to be a huge shift from what was already being done. Picture a women’s razer brand. Just a few years ago, the message was that removing body hair is a requirement for beauty, not a choice. On top of that, it was unheard of to show actual body hair being shaved in an ad. And if you tried, your ads probably wouldn’t make it on air.   

Thanks to some great companies that fought and paved the way for others, like Billie, razer brands show body hair everywhere you may want to shave – and celebrates keeping the body hair you like. You can both promote a close, effective shave while simultaneously saying you’re beautiful regardless.   

How you can embrace the “perfectly imperfect” in your marketing strategy  

Regardless of your industry, there is probably space to shine some light on the “perfectly imperfect.” Not only does this humanize your company, but it also can give you more space to flex your creative muscles and step away from the ideal.   

  • Show good scenarios, not ideal scenarios. Chances are, your product won’t “presto chango” your customer’s average life into an extraordinary one, so don’t promote that unreachable ideal. You should however show how your product can fit nicely into real life, and how the positive impact can spread into other areas of life.   
  • Don’t shy away from imperfections in your product. Picture imperfections as an opportunity for product growth, and promote it as such. Mention a complaint you received, own up to it, and prove how you made your product better because of it. Your customers will respect the transparency and will be more likely to trust you in the future.  
  • Show real people doing real things. This spans the board from body positivity in your models and web design or showing how the average Joe can use your product instead of just experts.  

With a quick YouTube search, you can see the general mass exodus from perfect to imperfect, and personally feel the sigh of relief as a customer yourself that brands are finally reflecting and not shying away from realistic scenarios. Who knows what major step will be taken next in the name of celebrating the real version of humans?  

Are you ready to engage and impress your customers using creative depictions of life, without promising something unattainable? Reach out to our team to find the right relationship marketing tactics for your company! 

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