It’s official – the septum piercing has gone mainstream. Once the reserve of the truly rebellious counter culture, this piercing has become more of a fashion statement, appearing in the pages of high end style magazines. This change echoes a wider acceptance of the markers of rebellion such as tattoos, piercings and graffiti into the mainstream, which raises the question: how is it possible for a brand to feel authentically rebellious?
There has been a shift which means that many of the classic markers of a rebel have been adopted as signs of creativity rather than of hardcore rebellion – for example having tattoos does not necessarily mean that you are planning on joining a biker gang, but rather are a mode of self-expression. Whilst we love creative self-expression, this does cause these markers to lose their sting in having real impact that feels subversive and challenging. Even a brand like Dr Martens which was built on rebellion now finds that its boots are worn as much by teenagers clothed exclusively in Topshop as they are by punks. If everyone is a rebel then it becomes more difficult to be a real subversive.
It seems that these old indicators for rebellion have been replaced by something new. A brand no longer has to feature punks and extravagant body modifications to feel like it is challenging the status quo. Protest and having a cause have begun to replace this as the heart of the rebellious brand. Brands like Lush and Ben and Jerry’s whose focus is making a difference to the world and supporting causes that could be seen as controversial are now flying the flag for challenging consumers and other brands to change the way they think. It is no longer about feeling rock and roll, but rather about creating new and inspiring ways to operate as a brand.
To feel truly rebellious, it is essential that brands consider what they really believe in and the values at their heart to create their own individual sense of going against the grain. Brands must find new ways of feeling challenging and innovative, as using the traditional symbols of rebellion is no longer enough.