Visual Storytelling Archetype of 2016: The Outlaw

Yesterday Butterfly attended Mintel’s Big Conversation where we listened intently to the latest trends and insights that have come to inform the current ‘Mood of the Nation’. We heard from Jacqueline Bourke, Senior Manager Creative Insights at Getty Images who spoke about the Defining Visual Trends of 2016.

This fascinating talk explored global trends through a visual lens, revealing some intriguing foresights for the year ahead. At Butterfly we pride ourselves on our storytelling expertise and so there was one trend that clearly stood out for us: ‘Outsider In’ predicts that in terms of visual storytelling, 2016 will be the year of the Outlaw Archetype.


So, who is the Outlaw?

The Outlaw (or Rebel) is a revolutionary protagonist whose mission is to set right all that they feel is wrong with the world. Fiercely independent, the Outlaw isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd with their bold and challenging behaviour. Their greatest fear is conformity and powerlessness.



Which brands are using this rebellious archetype?

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.


British meat snack brand Mattesson’s latest campaign ‘Snackarchist’ is one of our favourite ads of the year so far. 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 outrageous weirdo inside us all that wants to rise up and defy all expectations.

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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.


Why is the Outlaw having a moment?

So where else are we seeing this unorthodox archetype? Well, you don’t have to pay much attention to the news to notice that 2016 is shaping up to be the ‘Year of the Outsider’, with Trump, Bernie, Corbyn and Brexit clogging front pages and newsfeeds day in, day out. And then there’s the Oscars where winning films such as The Revenant and Mad Max tell narratives that are entirely centred on the heroic journeys of the Outlaw.


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; how to behave… the list goes on. So when the Outlaw comes along and challenges the status quo – we all follow suit with a huge sigh of relief. And it’s a trend that’s not going anywhere soon; according to Bourke 60% of Generation Z want jobs that will make a social impact and 72% want to own their own business. This revolutionary spirit marks a generation that is passionate about taking on the world.

For now, consumers are standing up for themselves and their demands more than ever before. They have never been so savvy and therefore hollow messages of authenticity no longer cut it. “Authentic” branding has become so overplayed and diluted that today’s consumers can see straight through it; hipsters are now too earnest, gourmet burgers have become overpriced. Therefore we are starting to see brands who light-heartedly mock this whilst offering an alternative language that isn’t preachy or sanctimonious, it simply celebrates and empowers the rebel warrior in us all.


Harriet Henry, Associate Consultant, 16.03.16 (