POSTED BY: Marie McGrath

Brands that compliment and brands that complement

1st Mar, 2019
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Brands that compliment and brands that complement

It’s World Compliment Day!

A day when people show extra appreciation to those they come into contact with by dishing out sincere personal compliments. The holiday began as ‘National Compliment Day’ in the Netherlands but the creators quickly decided it should go global and so they began World Compliment Day in 2011. Their goal was to make it ‘the most positive day in the world.’ The holiday differs from other major holidays in that it is emotionally oriented rather than commercially oriented. This makes it accessible for all – everyone can participate and everyone can come out ahead.

The day got me thinking about compliments and complements. And in the context of brands, which is more important?

There are brands that compliment us. They flatter us, they boost our egos, they make us feel good about ourselves. For beauty, one that comes to mind instantly is Dove. They have challenged the industry standards of young, pretty and thin for many years now by promoting the concept of ‘Real Beauty’. However, Dove’s compliment gets diminished by the underlying truth that regardless of what we define as real beauty, we are still pressuring women to be beautiful.

Let’s consider a brand that, instead, aims to complement the way we’d like to be portrayed. Keeping with the beauty example, take Benefit. By looking at their website it’s evident that their tongue-in-cheek tone of voice is right on par with their brand promise that ‘laughter is the best cosmetic.’ As a result, this complements the lifestyles, motivations and values held by their consumers.

So, is there a happy medium?

From Dove we can learn that brands can’t just flatter their way into the hearts of their consumers. They need to dig a little deeper if they’re really going to resonate. The brands that have really taken off recently are those which complement the broader cultural shifts that are happening around them.

Nike have just released a new ad entitled ‘Dream Crazier’. The ad challenges gender stereotypes in sport, highlighting successful female athletes who have broken mould. The girl-power focused ad is aptly narrated by Serena Williams who was recently penalised for snapping at an umpire during a match, despite male athletes having exhibited similar behaviour in the past. Williams says, “When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy.” The ad is empowering and inspiring. It’s compassionate instead of patronising. It encourages with a complement rather than a compliment.

By taking the complementary approach brands emphasise the importance of product and promise over simply message and creative. The complementary approach goes beyond the superficial and allows them to become more deeply embedded in the hearts of their consumers.

So, in the world of brands, maybe a ‘complement’ goes a little further than a ‘compliment’. But that’s not to say compliments don’t have their place too. I’ll finish off with a quote for the day that’s in it:

I can live for two months on a good compliment.” — Mark Twain

And on that note… thanks for reading, you are incredible!

Happy World Compliment Day!


Marie has many years’ design and consultancy experience to the team, gained from working alongside many of Ireland’s highly regarded brand heavyweights. She has extensive experience in branding, design and project management and injects a high level of creative and strategic thinking across all projects. Marie is constantly on the look out for new opportunities to enrich the brand experience and build your brand’s strength in the market. The primary communication conduit, she manages the entire process from concept to finishing, ensuring that the project delivers at every stage.