Top 10 ‘Badass’ Brands of 2009

For our first Top 10 list, Emma has asked us to do a rundown of the best ‘Badass’ brands of the year. Prior to doing so, I had to look up what Badass actually meant and the always-accurate Urban dictionary has a good definition:

“1. adjective. having extremely favorable qualities
2. adjective. pertaining to a person or thing that is rugged, strong, and/or ready to show these qualities”

For the purposes of this list, I’m going to skew the above definitions and include brands who have ‘Badass’ stories, ideas, executions and work. While the definition is pretty broad, here is your list to the most ‘Badass’ brands of the year.

10. Tom Ford

Debatable I know (he probably could have been #1 on the arrogant list as well), but when you run ads that feature women putting lipstick on using a guys belt buckle as a mirror or showcasing your product in various ‘positions’, you’ve got an attitude and you’re not afraid to stand out. Just look at one of his 2009 catalogs to get a sense of his ‘style’. All in all, you can’t ignore his style, ego or any of his ads. Hard to say that about other brands these days.

9. Harley Davidson
As I was putting this list together, I asked a few colleagues to think of one ‘badass’ brand and Harley was – by far – the one that was mentioned most. Whether it’s their biker dude ads, their site which encourages you to be bad or the fact that a ton of hardcore guys actually have the logo tattooed on their arm, something about their story continues to resonate with (mostly) boomer guys. You might think this is a cop-out because the creative hasn’t been stellar over the last few years (including this video showcasing the new ‘Nightster’) but if you asked anyone over 45 about what brands are ‘badass’, I guarantee you this would be one.

8. West Coast Chopper

Despite the fact that Jesse James has gone a bit mainstream with recent appearances on The Apprentice and this brutal T-Mobile spot, he still has a brand that is known for it’s individuality, outlaw appeal and ‘hardcore’ guy image. I don’t know a ton about Harley vs. West Coast but from a brand perspective, West Coast seems newer, cooler and different. A quick search on YouTube also proves that hundreds of thousands of dudes love nothing more than to watch Jesse take his new bikes out for a test ride.

Why would a website that encourages you to cheat on your partner be considered Badass? For starters, it’s morally questionable and a pretty unique idea. But they get our #7 spot because of their sneaky advertising strategy. In Toronto, they tried to advertise on the TTC (our public transit system). The ownership of the TTC really didn’t want the “Life is short, have an affair” slogan plastered on the subway system so they denied the ads. But AshleyMadison went further and told commuters that if the ads were allowed, anyone riding in car with an ad wouldn’t have to pay the $0.25 rate hike (a controversial issue here). The government ended the debate and no ads were run but they still get a mention on our top 10 for trying.

6. Calvin Klein
CK has a history of running ads that push the envelope. Whether it’s Marky Mark or some scantly clad model, they always seem to create executions that generate controversy. This year was no different. In the spring, CK put up this billboard in a popular center in LA (I actually saw this in April and was pretty surprised that it was located near a mall with hundreds of kids running around). Nothing like a topless teen girl sandwiched between two guys with another waiting for his turn on the floor. The ad was torn apart by CBS and various groups and was eventually taken down. That said, I’m sure the media generated from the billboard was valued way more than the actual cost to make the ad.

5. Rockstar Games
No explanation required but I’ll give a brief one anyway. The company responsible for the Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne and Midnight club. Remember that GTA is the game that encourages car jacking, senseless street killing, drug deals, the gangster lifestyle and hookers. And even though it’s not technically targeted to kids, we all know that the TV spots air during times when your 13 year old is going to be hanging out with his friends in the basement. And even if you keep the TV off, with over 10 million views on YouTube, the kids are going to find a way to watch.

If you want to know the gossip behind Silicon Valley’s greatest tech billionaires, start-up nerds or just the latest on who made out with who at an industry party, look no further. For years, Gawker Media’s Valleywag has provided readers with the low down on the most popular web companies out there. Want to see pics of Mark Zukerberg that he wouldn’t want you to find? No problem. Interested in what young blond Google’s Eric Schmidt is currently dating? Find it here. I can’t imagine how many times the site has been sued but for tech nerds out there, it’s the closest thing to being truly badass.

3. American Apparel

A clothing company that uses scantly clad (teen) models and adult film ‘stars’ to promote their products. If you’re a mother with a teen girl and you’ve never seen these ads before, my guess is that you’re going to change the settings on your daughters computer and make sure that she never leaves the house unaccompanied. If you’ve you’ve walked by one of the stores in the past few weeks you probably either felt sick after seeing one of their ads or compelled to go inside and actually confront someone who works there (and ask them how shit like this is OK to promote). I’m quite surprised that there hasn’t been more of an uprising against this creative. It’s not even isolated to 2009. This is what they do – all the time.

2. DC Shoes
I’ve been a fan of DC for a long time. Their work has constantly pushed the limit and they’ve embraced their cool, skater target in a way that is authentic and different. Remember the video that they shot in 2008 with the Chairman of DC driving his Subaru in a snowboard park? They followed up the video with another on in 2009 that shows Ken Block (Chairman) and rally driver Gymkana driving a souped up Subaru through a port authority loading dock. The shots are unbelievable as are the stunts and track. Badass to the max.

1. Vivid Entertainment
Yes. A porn company. But Steve Hirsch (the owner and founder) isn’t just any run-in-the-mill adult ‘businessman’. He’s the type of guy who signs deals with ‘actresses’ that he knows people (males mostly) will pay to see. Why is his brand #1 on our 2009 list?

You may have heard of Tiger Woods having some ‘troubles‘ over the past few weeks. Well one of Tigers mistresses is the LA-based pornstar Holly Sampson. She’s been all over the daily talk shows telling everyone about her ‘experience’ with Tiger. So what does Steve decide to do? He decides that he’s going to write a script about her experiences, cast her in a new ‘video’ and have her re-live the experience live for everyone to see. He says the film is a ‘docudrama’ about Holly and Tiger; how they met, how they ‘loved’ and how they lived (I’m sure the dialog is going to be stellar).

Now, Tiger probably isn’t very happy about this move and who knows if it will ever see the light of day but you can’t argue that Vivid is pretty badass (and that there is no level that is too low for Vivid to try and make a buck).

Thanks to Emma for the first list idea and please feel free to add more in the comments.

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