Our recently released report, Cult of Ugly, reveals how ugly has become cool—but this trend is about more than just being aesthetically unnerving, and brands are breaking the cardinal rules of the marketing playbook to get it right…
Clunky dad shoes, fanny packs, gaudy luxury wear—ugly is in. Young consumers agree: seven in ten 13-36-year-olds say that it’s cool now to wear clothing that was once considered ugly. And this intentionally ugly aesthetic goes beyond fashion. Social media trends like the Ugly Location Challenge are pulling back the curtain on overly-filtered posts, while foods usually unworthy of an Instagram post are getting their chance at the spotlight thanks to startups and TV shows dedicated to ugly delicious eats. Some young people are even showing their love for all-things-ugly the permanent way: getting poorly drawn and cartoon-like tattoos.
But being ugly is a lot more complex than just being aesthetically unnerving. Being “aggressively unglamorous,” as Quartz calls it, works on the ‘gram because Unique is the New Cool among young consumers, and ugly is anything but basic. Eyebrow-raising aesthetic choices are a sign of rebellion among seemingly perfect social media feeds. The majority of 13-36-year-old social users tell YPulse they’re tired of seeing perfect images in their social media feeds and close to nine in ten like it when people showcase their flaws and imperfections. As staged perfection of social media has become the norm, backlash has been building against carefully curated feeds, full of envy-inducing photos that are anything but an accurate depiction of the life behind the lens. Young consumers are clearly feeling perfection fatigue and craving more authentic content—and not just within their feeds. Close to four in five 13-36-year-olds are tired of seeing perfect, polished images in advertising, with clothing, beauty, music, and athletic brands ranking high as the top types of brands they feel should show imperfect images of their products and spokespeople.
In our recently released trend report Cult of Ugly, we dive into the specifics of this new lifestyle choice, defining what it really means to opt for ugly and revealing how this can be a bankable trend for brands. Click here to see our full report on Cult of Ugly, and check out our infographic for a brief spotlight on the trend: