From soft porn to substance, Pirelli resets their brand image

Brand change, Truly Deeply

Italian tyre brand Pirelli is famous for its annual soft porn Pirelli calendar but this year it’s undergone a dramatic makeover that could change the brand’s image for good.

For Pirelli’s 2016 calendar, scantily-clad female models have been replaced by ‘women of substance’. World-famous Annie Leibovitz has photographed 13 women of different ages, backgrounds and careers to create a more artistic look for the brand.

Brand image, Truly Deeply

This is a bold move from the brand that has traditionally used sex to sell their performance tyres.

Leibovitz said “the whole idea was not to have any pretence in these pictures, and to be straightforward and show these women exactly, like who they are”.

The 2016 Pirelli calendar features tennis star Serena Williams, entrepreneur Mellody Hobson, comedian Amy Schumer, philanthropist Agnes Gund, blogger Tavi Gevinson and Iranian artist Shirin Neshat. Most are photographed fully clothed. Only Williams and Schumer are in their underwear.

Schumer got lots of attention on social media when she posted her image with the caption “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!”

brand publicity, Truly Deeply

Vanessa Friedman, style critic at The New York Times described the new calendar as both a cultural shift and an effort to capitalise of the rise of the female dollar. Friedman noted that even Playboy magazine is resetting their image and won’t carry their famous nude centrefold.

While its possible Pirelli maybe hoping to attract more females to the brand, this feels more like the brand growing up are remaining relevant to their core audience.

After all, as Scott Flanders, Playboy’s Chief pointed out “you’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. It’s just passé at this juncture.”

Of course, there may be some risk here for the brand. The new calendar might not be proudly displayed on the back of toilet doors of mechanics across the country. Then again, that’s probably not a bad thing for the brand.

Pirelli are milking this for some positive PR but in reality they realise, like most brands, you have to continually evolve to stay relevant.

Michael Hughes
Managing Partner, Strategy

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