Why Brands That Are Direct Are Powerful

I recently returned from my honeymoon to France, Italy and Great Britain. In several of the cities we visited, I noticed United Colors of Benetton had “clothes for humans” splashed across their windows. The message was inclusive and inviting, a welcome change at a time when we are seemingly becoming more and more divided. With three simple words — “clothes for humans” — United Colors of Benetton stood out for its directness.

The campaign, which launched mid-summer, was uniquely intentional. Its straightforward messaging strategy resonated with me because I was in Europe just as the tumultuous U.S. presidential election ended. The months of divisive commentary, from all sides, was draining and this powerful message restored some of my faith in the world. I couldn’t help but think “clothes for humans” was a perfect summation of what consumers are looking for — positivity, sincerity. And that got me thinking; what made this campaign so exceptional and powerful?

  • It’s grounded in integrity Don’t believe me? Check out what Benetton’s agency 180 Amsterdam is calling their “manifesto” and tell me you don’t get choked up watching. It’s refreshing to see a brand take a stand for what it believes rather than producing a campaign that’s aligned with marketing best practices but devoid of much else.
  • It’s inclusive “Clothes for humans” is a great example of a brand consciously choosing everyone instead of just their target audience. Not many can appeal to the masses and do it well; Benetton did.
  • It’s genuine Watch the ad spots, seriously. You always hear about brands injecting themselves into the customer journey. United Colors of Benetton realized they didn’t have to do this — their clothes were already part of it.
  • It’s integrated I’m not just talking traditional messaging channels. Benetton is taking a leap into the content and publishing movement with the introduction of what The Drum described as the "'magalogue,' a publication that will contain 50% product and 50% quality content." It’s a bold move.



Not every brand can do what United Colors of Benetton has done, I get that. But I hope other brands will be inspired by their directness to yield more powerful work. Benetton has always forged their own path, carved their own destiny and with “clothes for humans” may very well cultivate the future of retail.

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