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Unpacking brave work

Olly Knowles, Creative Director at FRUKT London, considers what 'Bravery' in marketing really means and how we should approach it.

Being brave is a subject that comes up regularly in the weird world of creative, marketing and advertising agencies. There even seems to be a glut of agencies named after their courageous endeavour – Brave (four that I found), Brave Marketing, That’s Brave, MadeBrave, We Are Brave, Brave Creative, Brave People and Brave Little Tank. I’m not knocking the tricky task of naming an agency at all. It’s hard to stand out, be memorable and well, brave, but you have to make sure the work you deliver stands up to the name you’ve given yourself. Every time. 

Bravery or boldness in the wider world of creativity and culture is something people have been striving for for a long time. How to be original, new, fresh, different, disruptive, distinctive, challenging and fearless. Across music, art, fashion, media, design, advertising, literature and any output that requires a level of creativity, there’s an inherent desire to stand out. Not all the time of course. Safe, predictable and expected do have a role too. But being able to differentiate from what everyone else is doing sets you to one side and immediately puts the spotlight on you. And that’s where it gets interesting. Pixar, Alexander McQueen, Warhol, Tarantino, Apple, Uber, Tinder, Air BnB, Netflix, Beyonce and Kanye to name a few have deliberately set themselves a challenge to deliver something new and fresh and ultimately, brave. 

Dove ‘Real Beauty’

Some agencies have built solid businesses on consistently challenging their clients’ expectations and producing groundbreaking, bold and ultimately, brave work. Often this will come out of an agency-client shake up and the need to freshen things up. But how often can and should we as agencies challenge our clients to set aside their current expectations and be prepared to do something brave. Obviously there needs to be a solid reason for doing so and a sound strategic rationale for even exploring a new way of thinking, but by its very definition – being brave and different stands out.

How many times have we heard conversations from clients saying that they want to be challenged and to push things creatively? But how far are they really willing to go and how brave are they? It takes a very trusting relationship between an agency and brand to explore this area, and must be handled delicately to ensure it comes across as credible and not just as a novel or faddish approach.

Old Spice 'Unexpected'

So if it’s the right avenue to explore, then creatively, how can you achieve bravery within your work? Here are some other examples of brave campaigns and ideas that raised the brand's profile hugely:

All fearless, brave and bold executions that stand out, stand the test of time and get people talking about them. Something that most brands surely want to achieve.