Insight
Oct 17, 2010
From chic to cheap, a new wave of cheerful branding seems to be replacing the classic stylish approach.

Cheap and Cheerful Makes a Comeback 

After years of domination by the beautiful, chic and stylish, can it be true that the future belongs to the cheap and cheerful? We are witnessing a new wave of “blatant ugliness” which has become hip and highly sought after by consumers, as well as by certain brands!

fundamental trend: premium lines flood the low-cost market

Style has always dominated the rules of design: even budget brands and value products are introducing premium, elegant lines to arouse desire and to seduce the consumer. This is exactly what Happy has done – a value florist chain – offering a unique flower service at a price that defies the competition, but never failing to delight the recipients of its flowers. With its ultra modern black theme, it feels like a luxury florist.

The same is true of Carrefour Discount and Sainsbury’s Basics products, which – even though the packaging suffers for the sake of the low prices – boast an elegant, clean design, highlighted by their use of white.

Low-cost brands have thus given themselves a premium look to reassert their esteem for the consumer and prove that just because something is cheap, it doesn’t have to be ugly…

bucking the trend: ugly is the new cool 

Nevertheless, ugliness is making a comeback, with some brands unashamedly extolling its virtues! The emergence of this trend is perfectly epitomised in the fashion world. Recessionistas and Hipsters are scooping up the worst clothes charity shops have to offer; “wolf” t-shirts are selling like hotcakes on Amazon… Unashamedly wearing cheap, ugly clothes has become the best way of making a fashion statement.

It’s now ok to be ugly. Australian brand UGG is totally at ease with the ugliness of its boots – made famous by celebrities including Pamela Anderson – by promising ugliness with its very name: UGG is short for ugly. Another example of brazen ugliness is the Crocs brand, proudly proclaiming their dubious design in their advertising campaigns.

Whether you’re talking about identity, packaging or advertising, ugliness is a choice, and it is becoming a new way of standing out from the crowd in a world where beautiful is usually best.

Ugliness is also becoming incredibly cool as a real social phenomenon. In Switzerland, the launch of MDD M-Budget by orange giant Migros (Switzerland’s number 1 distributer) created quite a stir to begin with: the discount brand’s products all have an unassuming look – the white M Budget logo plastered over a green background. Initially confined to some fifty products, the brand has now been rolled out to more than 500, ranging from chocolates to orange juice, from mobile telephones to fashion and even credit cards.

Without even trying, M Budget has enjoyed tremendous success, becoming such a counter-culture phenomenon that the brand decided to launch the concept of the M Budget Party: evenings out costing less than €8 (9.90 CHF) including drinks, and where everything is branded with the M Budget look.

In Japan, a shop that at first glance might look like some kind of bargain basement is actually a super-cool concept store, equivalent to Colette in Paris. It’s THE place to find all of the latest must-have accessories in a nameless jumble.

In a world where every brand is pouncing on the idea of premium lines – with budget brands trying to pass as luxury ones – true bravery is surely demonstrated by cutting through this sterile approach and embracing everything cheap and ugly. Standing out from the crowd is one of the most effective ways to attract consumers who are always on the lookout for something different…

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