How the Outlaw has defined 2016 – the good and the bad

Early in the year, we heard from Jacqueline Bourke, Senior Manager Creative Insights at Getty Images who spoke to us about the Defining Visual Trends of 2016. At Butterfly we pride ourselves on our storytelling expertise and so there was one trend that clearly stuck out for us: ‘Outsider In’ predicted that in terms of visual storytelling, 2016 would be the year of the Outlaw archetype.

Even at the beginning of this year it felt as though the Outlaw – known for boldly challenging the status quo – was already having a bit of a moment. Films such as The Revenant, Mad Max, The Hunger Games – all centred around the heroic journey of the Outlaw – were all smashing the Box Office. The likes of Trump, Bernie and Corbyn had already started clogging our newsfeed, but admittedly back then it felt like a distant ‘what if’ rather than something to be taken seriously, it’s safe to say none of us predicted the cataclysmic turn of events that has shaped 2016. With ‘post-truth’ being named as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries (a dark departure from last year’s choice of an emoji) it’s hard to see what good the Outlaw archetype – whose greatest fear is conformity and powerlessness – has brought us.

But if we can manage to put political world order (or lack thereof) to one side, there’s also a lot we can learn from the Outlaw’s spirit of revolution – and something that brands are embracing more than ever. We live in a world in which we are constantly being told what to do; what to eat; what not to eat; how much to drink; how to look…the list goes on. As a response, consumers are standing up for themselves and their demands. They have never been more savvy.

And brands are responding to this by light-heartedly mocking the previously hollow messages of authenticity. Turn on your television and it won’t be long until you catch a brand celebrating non-conformity and rebellion during the ad break. There’s widespread irreverence, albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek style, that seeks to shake up the assumptions of traditional storytelling techniques as well as conventional industries.

Brands are offering an alternative language that isn’t preachy or sanctimonious – it simply celebrates and empowers the Outlaw in us all.

So which brands are making the most of this rebellious archetype?


British meat snack brand Mattesson’s latest campaign ‘Snackarchist’ is one of our favourite ads of the year. It sees a red-haired, bespectacled protagonist who is on a mission to break the rules, one ‘no loitering’ sign at a time. The hilarious spot successfully embodies a rebellious spirit that seeks to challenge the entire nation’s snacking habits.


A sector that has gone from safe conventions to bold experimentation is the finance industry and one company in particular that perfectly sums up this shift is Their now legendary series of ads, including the epic big-booty strut and the pole-dancing builder, celebrates the weirdo inside us all that just wants to rise up and defy all expectations.


Laundry brand Surf has ventured into brave new ground by totally dismantling the somewhat stale conventions of luxury perfume advertising with their latest online spot. The tongue-in-cheek campaign unsubtly parodies the well-known Dior J’adore ads fronted by Charlize Theron. In doing so, it adds a refreshing sense of humour to the laundry category but also successfully communicates a new sense of luxury.


Oasis have flat-out rejected and mocked the traditional heritage approaches to marketing soft drinks. In 2015, they launched their ‘O Refreshing Stuff’ visual campaign, which resurfaced this summer. Adverts make tongue-in-cheek acknowledgments of the purpose of the marketing, touting slogans such as ‘It’s summer. You’re thirsty. We’ve got sales targets’ and ‘Advertising doesn’t work on you. Celebrate this fact with a bottle of tasty Oasis’.

Harriet Henry, Consultant,