Once again, I really want to praise the people that took part. We got a series of great, mostly beautifully written entries with some really good observations. I really got a sense that people were getting a feel for their audience, what they really care about and what that could mean for KOS. Again, I want to impress upon everyone, the entrants showed a level of thinking, empathy and emotional intelligence way beyond what most planners demonstrate.
The fact that nobody really nailed a truly succinct, watertight presentation isn't and shouldn't be disappointment, only SOME of the best agencies in the world do this stuff really well, and they don't always nail it. This was always intended as a learning experience to get people thinking about this kind of stuff and get a feel for how to go about it. I hope it succeeded to that end.
Anyway, here's one or two things I would have considered if I was looking at this...
Firstly, nearly everybody looked at shaving as a symbol of masculinity and naturally delved into what it could mean to be a man in the 21st century. Great approach of course, when the category is so far behind others in this respect, from Old Spice to Johnnie Walker, from most beer brands to quite a few automotive ones. But then again, when so many brands are providing a variety of outlets for all sorts of tensions in masculine culture, it's really hard to find something new. Doing something similar to another brand outside of shaving, and as well would still have profound effects in such a stilted category, but finding completely new cultural codes instead of a new take on masculine ones would have really interesting.
When shaving is so crassly tied up with being a real man, what else could it be about? For example, the rest of the category is all about space age white hot, NASA, technology (thanks SC) which feels part of the general cultural demand to always keep up with the latest thing, or even worse, take away the need for skill and concentration in favour of convenience . But King of Shaves is proud it was invented in a man's kitchen sink and began with a traditional shaving oil - that could have real meaning for brand that makes shaving an act of authentic concentration and skill, rather than a thoughtless act where man in subservient to technology. You could be quite provocative, delving into the growing cult of the amateur, where people are developing an untapped need to have absorbing hobbies again - things they can do with passion, that require concentration and perseverance, but where learning along the way is as much fun as actually getting there...and it's mostly an intention in life, more than a reality because who has the time? That could be about craft skills, but it could also be about things that actually make you feel something.
Many people picked up on the new quest for physical perfection amongst men. My view is that this part something much deeper. The kind of guys that are embracing the male beauty ideal tend to be young urban professionals - they work hard and play hard, totally embracing experience culture, completely dedicated to having as much damned fun as they can, drinking to excess, partying in cool bars and clubs, lots of sex with hot women and not afraid to embrace the fashion codes that go with it, depillating, smooth skin, immaculate hair, even considering plastic surgery. All the while, where seeing a massive 'assault on pleasure' - promiscuity, drink, eating the wrong foods...our institutions are trying to end the fun and make people behave. How interesting would it be for a set a sub-culture of hedonistic beatiful people against the dull, authoritative mass market - and predictable, one dimensional Gillette guy could be made part of the enemy possibly. Even better, this target gets irony, they love sophisticated, multi-layer comedy and culture that others just don't get - how great would it to be to mount protest your enemy doesn't even understand?
Back on manliness, I wonder if there's more in transformation culture? Many picked up on the confusing variety of roles men are asked to play these days. Rather than fight this, why not embrace it? Much of the feminine codes you see out there are about women playing with their identity. Maybe it's time to be the brand that does this for men? Shaving, as many points out, seems to fight against new masculine ideals and preserve the classic male- why not smash it by embracing the new masculinity, where different mindsets and seemingly contradictory behaviours are not hyocrisy or schizophrenia, they're embracing the modern man who has as many sides to his identity as a woman and wants to explore this and the possibilities it represents. You see it in the way fashion has become less about the diktats from the fashion police and more a huge selection of styles and identities to mix, match and try on. That might lead to the The staid corporate stooge who goes base jumping at the weekend. The loving, dependable single Dad who's also the ladykiller. The reason superheroes tend to have a human alter ego is because it touches a deep need in most people to be someone else from time to time, or even just vent that part of yourself that never comes out very often. I find it funny that much of modern feminist culture is about independence and self actualisation when that luxury isn't, at least in the popular culture we see, afforded to men. Don Draper's identity crises don't strike a chord because they're abnormal, but because they're all too common.
I'd argue that much of why people connect with the Bourne Identity or the new James Bobd movies is the way the complex, conflicted, ambiguous and, in the case of Bourne, multi identity characters reflect tension in their own lives.
What about women? KOS is launching Queen of Shaves. In culture, women are loving invading previously male only citadels (apparently the biggest growth area for motorcyle sales is women) - instead of the seriously crap Gilette Venus stuff:
Why not champion Generation Y women invading the mans world? Most brands treat young women as idiots, why not embrace their dizzying march?
Oh, and one final thing. Young men feel rather helpless right now. The category not only shows them a world of success that's out if reach, it's one dimensional men with nothing about them. Right now, they feel helpless, listless and without any control in their own lives. This especially acute with 2o somethings who have been sold a pup by culture- the fake rich beatiful MTV lifestyle and the promise that of they worked hard and buckles down, they could have great jobs and great lives with the houses, cars and fantastic leisure pursuits that go with it. But most of them are finding the jobs are not there, and end if working in boring, repetitive jobs, call centres admin, or some even have to take a McJob. Even the successful ones feel they've sold out to the man and wish for something for meaningful. That's the deep need expressed in Fight Club
and even Wanted-
young men looking for outlets, for a way to feel control in their own lives. As James whatsisface says at the end of Wanted (dreadful film, but still).."What the fuck did you do today?". Yes it's youth rebellion, but I wonder what outlets - naturally safer and less silly than bare knuckly fighting or teaming up with Ms Jolie to kill people - KOS could provide. You only have look at culture jamming or the student protests in the UK to see there's something to tap into here. Maybe it's even showing that a life of significance doesn't revolve around how much money you earn and being the corporate guy, it comes from being a 'man of action' rather than words?
Anyway, just some rough, half formed channels of interest. Please rip them apart at will.