KENZO’s “My Mutant Brain” Dismantles Notions of Perfume Advertising

“She’s a maniac, maniac I sure know! And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before!” Okay, so KENZO’s My Mutant Brain is not Flashdance and it does not have Jennifer Beals, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in moves! If you ask me, I’d watch this over Flashdance any day and darn it if I might not buy some of KENZO’s perfumes just so I could see what might happen.

My Mutant Brain is a 2016 ad from the perfume company KENZO commemorating its first fragrance. It stars actress Margaret Qualley (daughter of Andie MacDowell) and was directed by Spike Jonze, who outside of making films such as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, and Her, has made iconic music videos (“Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim, “Undone: The Sweater Song” by Weezer) and commercials (like this great IKEA spot).

In the ad, Qualley’s character escapes an oppressive, uppity banquet so she can be free and dance throughout the building. Instead of the conventional, romantic perfume ad, Jonze and KENZO wanted to give us an enthusiastic, speedy, movement-filled piece that’s all about the present with no melancholy—and boy did they ever succeed!

Kenzo Perfume Video Ad

Some Good:

1. The Subtext – Outside of the ending, one would have no clue that perfume was being both advertised and criticized in this commercial. You just thought you watched a girl dance for four minutes; however, there was more going on. The stuffy banquet this girl escaped represented the perfume ads of old. The fervent dancing represented the new and by the time the girl leaped through that giant eye (KENZO’s logo), perfume ads of yesteryear were to be no more. Welcome to the new age, perfume.

2. The New – This point piggybacks off the end of the previous one. This perfume ad was new and awesome because of it. Most perfume commercials are stuffy and have an actress walk around in glitz and glamour, trying to speak French (with dialogue that’s often darn near inaudible) while flirting with some random dude. This ad? Heck no! It threw all that out and gave us one memorable ride! Bravo!

3. Subtle Branding – Again, this is huge for me, but in this ad it was “mind-blowingly” huge! I was hooked from the get-go watching this girl spaz around the building and by the time she leaped through the eye and the perfume slide came on (the only reference to KENZO in the entire piece) I was like, “Ha! It’s a perfume ad! No way!” It hasn’t left me since. I was completely reeled in.

Some Bad:

1. Zilch! Nada! – Nothing was wrong here! This ad blew me away, so much so that I’m overlooking the possible nepotism from Jonze by having his brother’s new song as the soundtrack.

My Mutant Brain Brand Video

The Takeaway:

My Mutant Brain is an ad in celebration of KENZO’s first fragrance. It wanted to be something new and unique and reject the stifling, conservative approach to perfume ads. It wanted to celebrate artistic freedom, diversity and imagination. It did so by making an exciting music video with delicate branding.

But, did it work? You bet! It lit up social media with people applauding Qualley’s performance, Jonze’s direction, and its dismantling of traditional notions of what perfume advertising should be. My guess is you’re going to see more perfume ads like KENZO’s in the future; more energy, less stuffy, and all the better for it.

AUTHOR: Dan Nelsen
ORIGIN: Speaking Human Contributor

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