Hey Stupid! Diesel Thinks You're Awesome


With every new day, the phrase "I'm just not the target demographic" seems to be more relevant for me.

Earlier this week I saw a couple of striking posters that caught my eye. They were bold, typographic and used hot colors. That was the good part. Then I read the message: SMART LISTENS TO THE HEAD. STUPID LISTENS TO THE HEART. BE STUPID.

DieselThis is a new ad campaign from Diesel fashions. Their pitch is that smart is cold, intellectual, and cautious, and has only one good idea. Stupid is exciting, hot, emotional full of possibility, and has "balls." The logic seemed pretty weak.

I decided to visit their Web site for some clue as to what I was missing, I found an animated typographic video with thumping soundtrack spewing wisdoms such as "Stupid is the relentless pursuit of a regret-free life" and "Smart has the plans, stupid has the stories."

This campaign hopes to capture video from people (aka customers) who will become part of their online video catalog and "give them the great opportunity to demonstrate their stupidity to the world." It asks, "Are you doing something stupid like starting a band or building a tree house?" Not bad ideas to me.

Diesel's strategy exploits the rampant obsession with fame—YouTubing, reality TV, and the chance for instant stardom in the social networking space—to create buzz and lure shoppers to buy their clothes.


Graphically, this campaign is strong, simple, and punchy. Twisted logic aside, I agree with the basic premise that risk and failure can be enormously energizing, if not essential, to the creative process. There is value in this message. It's just that Diesel's blatantly provocative campaign is so forced. It's meant to challenge convention but uses old techniques. Stay tuned for plenty of worm eating, lousy singing and gross stunts that can be seen on any episode of Jackass. Unfortunately, it will give credence to any lame brain idea just for fifteen minutes of fame.

But there I go again, using my head instead of my heart.

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Ken Carbone is among America's most respected graphic designers, whose work is renowned for its clarity and intelligence. He has built an international reputation creating outstanding programs for world-class clients, including Tiffany & Co., W.L Gore, Herman Miller, PBS, Christie's, Nonesuch Records, the W Hotel Group, and The Taubman Company. His clients also include celebrated cultural institutions such as the Museé du Louvre, The Museum of Modern Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art.

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  • Nick Routley

    This is the same company that produced a shirt that read: "Diesel, we could write pretty much anything"

    Diesel is constantly challenging its target market. That engenders a certain amount of respect in a market flooded with products designed to pander to the lowest common denominator.

  • Mike Harrop

    Diesel brand clothing is like oil. And like using oil, there's a lot of people need it every day. Privately, because it projects "who they are", and professionally, because it gives them visual cred in many professions, from fashion to tech. Diesels new "stupid" ads are aimed not at teen jackasses, but at people (all aged 28 to 42 lol) who need to project that they "get it", whether they're ghetto role-models or tech stars or gay sophisticates or minigarchs from central Europe or celebs dressing down.
    In fact, Diesel's biz model is as old as Pharaoh. People buy Diesel because it makes cool stuff, with sexually strong visuals and tactiles, and sells it slightly more expensive, has a winner JamesDean-ish f-you brand-name, a street-smart image that shows the wearer 'knows', impeccable execution, and owners with what appears to be a belief system.
    The "stupid" ads are just there to make sure the brand gets it own daily 15 minutes of exposure before everyone else. For that, they just need to be a few minutes ahead of the insanity/wtf curve. What you see is not what you're getting WYSINWYG.
    Mike "All my friends wear Diesel but I'm starting to make my own clothes" Harrop http://www.harrop.info

  • . Milani5

    @ferenstein: should be working for spiteful, manipulative, and shallow crowd. Folks who need to be fake and stupid in order to have friends under all the glam and the glitz.
    @Jesko: nice double bind analogy ! I think this is where the idea is born: not in the boardrooms of big corporations, but in the bedrooms of the slumber parties of ten year old boys. deliciously vulnerable and therefore deliciously, and ever humanly, evil & stupid.

  • Jesko Arlt

    Smart slides in a mousetrap, Stupid got some amusement. - Very good example for a double bind based campaign.

    Wiki: "A double bind is a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one message negating the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. The nature of a double bind is that the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither comment on the conflict, nor resolve it, nor opt out of the situation."

    You cant escape if you're smart enough. In every case (and sense)it's a kind of binding. Factual you wast time on it. Wisdom says: Win the time of the people, their money will follow.

    Impressive campaign plot, that works for the smart and the stupid equally.

  • Kimiyo Nakatsui

    Thanks for this. I felt a little heartless looking at this campaign myself.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    I suppose a good question is, in light of some confusion, who do you think this advertisement works for (surely there must be some demographic), and why?


  • Stefan Bucher

    Also, I've obviously let myself be provoked in exactly the way they wanted. Sigh.

  • Stefan Bucher

    Well, they is just saying what everybody was already thunk. What makes it odious is that the line probably came from an exceedingly well educated writer who's got the great American novel in his drawer, and was backed up by a Harvard-trained account team.

    The problem is that we've been conditioned over decades that their basic premise is if not correct then socially unassailable. If you point out that this is all bullshit, then you're just the stuck up nerd who'll never get it anyway.

    Maybe the only way to go against this sort of thing is to introduce the idea that SMART CHOOSING TO GO STUPID can figure out new and twisted ways of doing it that would make your brain twist itself into a euphoric knot before warping into the 5th dimension with an ecstatic yodel that will put birds in the air and rainbows in the sky.