Some of our era’s most popular films are vibes-forward. What can brands learn from movies that are more look and feel, than think?
Like any hot property, Saltburn is divisive. Haters say it’s full of plot holes and shamelessly glorifies the elite. Lovers say it’s a gorgeously shot, casted and soundtracked feast for the senses. But no one can disagree that it’s a vibes-forward experience. The aesthetic, the twists, the songs, the hedonism all add up to an experience that puts feeling before thinking.
Vibes is not a new thing in film. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet were all loved and hated for the same reasons. Saltburn’s just like these, dialled up a few notches for the 20’s. As long as you put your brain into neutral it’s good unclean fun.
So what can brands learn?
The industrial designer Raymond Loewy famously said ‘to sell something familiar make it surprising. To sell something surprising make it familiar.’ The plots of all these films are familiar. Pulp Fiction is a crime caper, Lock Stock is a gangster film, Romeo & Juliet is a romance and Saltburn is a psychological thriller. But what we remember is how they’re sold to us – music, wardrobe, comedy, cinematography. It’s the ‘branding’.
Below are three brands pushing the boundaries of vibes. They’ve chosen to go vibes-forward because they’re in such overcrowded, undervalued categories.
Liquid Death Water is the master of vibes. Founder Mike Cessario has gone on record that he chose water because it’s so boring and functional. The gory, witty, gnarly branding ignores product difference. It’s just to grab your attention, with marketing to keep you hooked.
While Nivea and Garnier sun cream sell protection, Vacation Inc. sells retro. In this case there is a product difference – the nostalgic smell – but the branding comes first, taking you back to the throwaway hedonism of 80s holidays. There’s not an SPF claim in sight to dilute the bliss.
The Rochambeau Club is a made-up, louche members club, a pure vibes sell for a premium rosé. Created (in London) for ‘idyllic long afternoons in the sultry Riviera heat’ the brand also offers a range of merch. You might come for the wine. But you stay for the preppy fancy dress make believe.
It’s no coincidence that all three are digital-first. Liquid Death is now in traditional retail, but it started online. This is where shoppers are most vibes-oriented. Each is a lesson in disrupting boring functional categories. Facts are fine. But vibes are moreish. Appealing to feels before minds grabs attention and switches the autopilot off. So when a category gets overfamiliar, tired or boring brands need vibes to bring the freshness back.