By Dan Monheit 10th August 2023
Question submitted by Vivienne, Preston
I don’t like your tone Vivienne.
As a proud member of the Barbeque Dad set, I don’t understand why people insist on talking about us in direct contrast to TikTok Teens, like they’re the epitome of what’s poppin’. I’ll have you know I was back spinning on cardboard, rocking full parachute tracksuits and camping out for limited edition sneaks while these kids were still dribbling on themselves watching SpongeBob.
That aside, there’s no denying the brand has made an epic return in the last few years. Seemingly overnight, the iconic ’N’ started showing up everywhere; from backyard family get-togethers at midday, to the hottest night spots in town after midnight.
But how have they managed to do it?! How can one brand truly reach two of the most diametrically opposed audiences at the same time and with the same old school 530’s than even my grandfather would have rocked?
The Pratfall Effect
The Pratfall Effect is our tendency to find a person or brand more likeable after they’ve made a mistake or revealed an imperfection.
A classic piece of research on the Pratfall Effect comes from (Melbourne’s favourite) consumer psychologist, Adam Ferrier (Hi Adam). In the study, a group of participants were shown two images of a delicious chocolate chip cookie; one with rough edges and the other with perfectly smooth, rounded edges. The participants were then asked which cookie they’d prefer to chomp into.
While we might assume that something ‘technically perfect’ would be preferred, the rough-edged cookie was the winner for 66% of participants. That’s right, the rough edges made the cookie more appealing, not less.
So how do cookies relate to sneakers? Well Vivienne, it appears that imperfections aren’t just beneficial to the baking category. Rather than strive for athleisure-wear perfection, New Balance have done a terrific job in recent years of leaning into their endearingly dorky DNA.
When done correctly, turning flaws into favours has the ability to make a brand appear more genuine, authentic and appealing than ever. In Adland, we’ve seen this time again, from Buckley’s cough mixture’s classic ‘It tastes awful. And it works’ campaign to Volkswagen’s iconic ‘Lemon’ ad for the Beetle.
The key to building likability through the Pratfall Effect is to stay brilliant at what’s important, while flaunting imperfections around what’s not. The New Balance brand does this perfectly, embracing their role as the perfect dad shoe to pair with straight legged, light blue jeans, without compromising on quality, durability or performance. In fact, their ‘Made in USA’ range and partnerships with world class athletes only add to the brand’s legendary status.
The Pratfall Effect gives brands creative licence to own their imperfections or past mistakes in a way that aids authenticity and hopefully, sales. Keeping the occasional bad review visible, responding to (not deleting) negative comments and owning your position in the category are sure fire ways to make the Pratfall Effect work for you. Just remember, exposing your own weaknesses only works if you’re already shining brightly in the areas customers expect you to.
PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why our terrible return flights taint our whole holiday here.
Bad Decisions Podcast
Learn more about the Pratfall Effect in episode #30 of the Bad Decisions podcast.
Got a question?
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Check out Dan’s write up in Smart Company on why marketers should use the ‘Mental Accounting’ approach after tax time here.
The Why, The Book
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