Why we all love bad boy branding.

19.05.22 | By Kimberley Killender | branding

Why we all love bad boy branding.

Risky business.

Draco Malfoy, Han Solo, Damon Salvatore; it’s safe to say we love a bad boy. And that thrilling attraction to the bold and rebellious doesn’t just extend to fictional characters—we love it in branding as well. 

When brands are bold enough to say something different, do things that challenge the status quo, or are willing to put themselves on the line for our (and their) entertainment… It's hard to resist.

So jump on the back of our metaphorical motorcycle and let’s ride into the brands who do rebellious the best.

The Rebel. 

Thursday captured hearts by being a dating app that acknowledged dating apps sucked. They dumped the small talk and endless swiping with an app that only functioned one day a week. A Cinderella style system clears your matches at the stroke of midnight, so you have to meet Prince Charming the same Thursday you began speaking. 

Why we’re into it:

  • It was born from an insight. The founders built another dating app previously, and found their user activity spiked on, you guessed it, Thursday.

  • It levels up the dating app offering. Thursday plans an AfterParty every Thursday—the perfect spot for two matches on a strict time limit to meet on short notice.

  • It targets a pain point. Dating app fatigue is real, especially post-lockdown where dating was nothing but texts and Zoom calls for months. This was the perfect time for them to refresh and challenge what the dating app experience had to be. 


The Party Animal. 

Duolingo’s owl mascot has long been somewhat of a meme, so when they finally hit TikTok, their social media manager put on a giant suit of the owl and embodied the unhinged persona the internet had given it. From thirsting after Dua Lipa, collabing with TikTok influencers, and running circles around their own legal team, the Duolingo brand has become synonymous with chaos and laughter.  

Why we’re into it:

  • It learnt from their users. Taking the persona customers had assigned it and developing that into a tangible character gave users a sense of ownership over the Duolingo Owl and all its antics.

  • It deepened their market share. There was an uptick in people reporting they’d discovered the language learning service via TikTok, and reminded existing users to complete their daily lessons. 

  • It made them likable. Embracing the slightly menacing personality assigned to their mascot was a risk; but it gave their TikTok audience a character to root for and to laugh with. To put it in TikTok terms; the brands that get it, get it and the brands that don’t, don’t. And Duolingo absolutely gets it.


The Class Clown.

Hungry Jacks has gone from back up plan to bad boy burger brand simply by trying their best to annoy McDonalds. The fast-food feud began with their US equivalent Burger King, who pulled off stunts like setting up geofencing to push 1c burger offers to customers' phones if they got close enough to a McDonalds. Hungry Jacks added that same sizzle to their marketing. From hijacking the McDonalds Monopoly campaign, to creating a new burger called The Big Jack and using the resulting court case as free PR, the risky game Hungry Jacks plays with McDonalds is one that pays off.

Why we’re into it:

  • It makes us think about them. Will Hungry Jacks framing McDonalds as the uptight older sibling to their fun and frisky personality make us second think getting a 10 pack of McNuggets after a night out? Probably not. But it will mean next time we’re craving a burger, or some chaos, their name is top of mind, right next to Macca's.

  •   It’s so quintessentially Australian. There’s something endearing about the larrikin energy Hungry Jacks are channelling. Where their US equivalent is clever and tricky, in Australia, they’re just making it funny. And it works.

  • It’s fresh. Just like their burgers, it positions Hungry Jacks as a fresh option on the market. Previously overlooked and discarded, now fighting back with better food and a refreshingly fun personality.

We love a challenger brand the same way we loved Heath Ledger dancing away from security as he sang to Julia Stiles in ​​10 Things I Hate About You. A little bit risky, a lot cheeky, and preferably, serenading us.

Ready to risk it all? Or maybe just want a chat about challenger branding? Hit us up.

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