The cliche that "no person is an island" apparently doesn't apply to brands. In this video, Diesel Jeans shows that it's not only an island, but a mini-nation. One with its own "National Anthem":
I don't think I've ever seen an ad that's displayed such hyper-awareness of the global economy -- and its domino-like run of failing nations. But what really fascinates me is how aggressively (and satirically) this ad plays with the concept of nationalism itself.
The anthem here is only one of the goofy ways this new "nation" simulates its independence. On the website, you can tour Diesel Island, meet your fellow citizens, propose laws and holidays, and learn national "moral" commandments. (My favorite: "Always remember where you're from, you don't want to go back there.")
Of course, Diesel Nation isn't a place, but a state of mind. One occupied by a particular philosophy. Parodying our own "Land of the free, home of the brave", the Island is described as "Land of the stupid and home of the brave."
In fact, as the copywriters (from the Global Agency SANTO) who wrote the manifesto-like video below make clear, neither freedom nor bravery is possible without stupidity:
It Takes a "Nation"...
The whole concept of creating a "nation" around a brand is probably inspired by the notion of "forming brand communities." The idea is to gather people who identify with your product -- and offer them a way to share their experiences with it.
The hope is that such communities will identify with the brand strongly enough to not only stay with it, but to actually "evangelize" for you; i.e., create good word of mouth, leading eventually to sales.
If this sounds far-fetched, just think of how people identify with being "a Mac person," a "Harley owner" -- or, a couple of years ago, with being on Team Jacob or Team Edward. Or think of the loyal communities around NFL, NBA or MLB teams.
And the attempt to drum up a community by kidding people into imagining themselves as part of some (in this case) wacky "nation", isn't really a stretch either. For like all nations, Diesel Island is what Benedict Anderson (the great scholar and theorist of nationalism) would call an "Imagined Community." As he puts it:
"It [a nation] is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion...With a certain ferocity Gellner makes a comparable point when he rules that 'Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.' " (p. 6)
And in the case of Diesel Island, hearing of and even meeting/sharing with fellow members can now be simulated through social media.
But Why "Stupid"?
Here in the U.S., we've seen how excited people get when they are encouraged to rally around their own "know-nothingness". But I'm not sure Diesel Jeans has the same thing in mind here -- at least not exactly.
Through urban slang, "stupid" (or "stoopid") has taken on new shades of meaning. When, for example, an NBA star makes an amazing play -- one that that might look foolhardy to the non-gifted -- you hear: "that was a stoopid shot." So the word can mean "daring" as well as "dumb."
Or as Diesel's founder put it: "It's about following your heart and not your head. Stupid is about having the guts to risk, to take on the new and inventive, however dangerous."
Nevertheless, the word still carries a socially negative echo. But this may work in the campaign's favor. Because if you believe "brand community" pundits, one technique for forming such groups is to "have a common enemy."
Here's a guess as to who that might be in this case. Since jeans are for laid-back, casual times, when it's ok to let your hair down (and "get stoopid") like the neo-hippies in the video, perhaps your imaginary enemies are "workaholics". In other words, "suits" (or maybe "nerds"?) -- working even during leisure time via "smart" electronic devices -- who compete by trying to broadcast their intelligence with rationalizations for everything they do. This sort of stereotype certainly contrasts nicely with the low tech aura the videos give off.
Of course, it's a lot to ask a line of clothing to carry the variety of meanings suggested by all this. But that's advertising for you.
And, in any case, it's undeniable that people do form communities around their styles of consuming. With the credibility of more traditional forms of group identification (like nations) getting increasingly shaky, folks may make their social bonds (and create their social identities) with whatever's at hand. Thoughts?