It’s a sea of “we care” and wind turbines out there. What was once fresh messaging now blends into the background of other B2B campaigns, especially in manufacturing.

(We’ve all fallen foul of a few clichés. But let’s be honest – if we had a pound for every B2B headline about “Creating a sustainable future, together”, we’d be laughing all the way to the Maldives.)

Exel Composites needed to switch the record if they were going to catch the attention of buyers. But how? Our strategy was simple: we’d tell the truth.

Cue the creatives (who gave those guys control?) and we’ve got a concept that raises eyebrows: The Naked Truth. We’ve also got Exel’s most successful strategic brand-level initiative ever.


If we were to bottle up the success of this campaign and sell it, here are the four ingredients we’d add:

1. There’s no need to fear the shock factor

In the film, an Exel executive undresses one item at a time – walking through offices, then riding a bicycle, before arriving at a sauna in the woods. All the while he lays bare the truth about sustainability at the company, in a set of stripped-back claims.

It’s not entirely random, this nakedness. As a Finnish manufacturer, Exel comes from a culture that values straight-talking honesty (and saunas in the nude). But as well as authenticity, it’s got something that matters just as much: shock factor.

Nobody ignores this advert after the unbuttoning starts. And you know what? Nobody got upset either. Far from causing controversy, the film opened conversations with customers and attracted top executives to the company.

2. Sarcasm can slice through cynicism

Let’s be honest, sarcasm probably isn’t your go-to tone for planet-saving creative. And that’s exactly why it worked.

Sure, Exel could have just ignored sustainability clichés. Instead, we poked fun at them – commenting wryly on twee clips of children with pinwheels and pointing out how little good they do.

Why? When our cynicism is called out, it’s hard to stay so cynical. After all – when we start agreeing with someone, it’s more natural to continue. It works on the same principle as a rhetorical question – and as Changing Minds says:

“Rhetorical questions make the listener agree with the speaker, as the answer is obviously yes. Even if the listener does not say the word, they will think it. And once they start agreeing they are more likely to keep doing so.”

3. You’re more likeable if you face up to flaws

From one rule of psychology to another.

This time, it’s The Pratfall Effect. It sounds grand, but really it just means we have a more favourable opinion of people who show a few flaws. And yes – believe it or not – there’s been plenty of scientific research into the likeability of mucking up.

To apply this for Exel, we got honest about the company’s limitations and the work they still needed to do:

“We admit it, we don’t have all the answers yet. But we are working on it. And working on it makes a far bigger difference than kids with pinwheels.”

4. It’s fine to take things a little less seriously

All this protecting the planet can get a little worthy. Unbuttoning a little (or rather, a lot) taught us that sustainability should be fun too.

After all, anything that gives us a better chance of change is a good thing. And there’s no doubt that humour is one of the most powerful tools for grabbing attention and creating engagement.

Just think of Ikea’s ‘pee on this ad’ pregnancy tests – or Spotify’s wildly successful Wrapped campaigns:

If we trust humour to grow our brands and careers, why wouldn’t we trust it to protect our planet?

The real proof

So that’s the recipe. What were the results?

Our client Robert Glass, Head of Marketing, said:

“The sustainability film and story has changed our relationship with customers. The openness of our position has led to more productive discussions, and key sustainability challenges are being shared with us for the first time.”

Not bad, and engagement was through the roof too. The campaign got more people talking than any previous campaign had managed.

Let’s keep it real simple

Want to run a sustainability campaign your customers can’t ignore? Same here. Drop us a line to chat ideas.


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