Brave? Or just blokey?

This is the internal branding from Huel; the vegan powdered food brand whose mission is to ‘make a nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment’.



They say they have created a community of people sharing ideas and helping each other and their positioning is very ‘champion of the people” like… and at first glance the above – Don’t be a Dick values – comes across as appealing and brave. A bold statement that their main objective is to not be dicks.

However, I have to say, I am not convinced. Firstly, what we know about the unconscious mind is that it doesn’t actually hear the negative, so in making a ‘don’t’ statement like this, you’re actually saying the opposite.

Let me expand.… if I tell you NOT to imagine blue trees, your mind instantly pictures a blue tree. Seriously, stop your mind thinking about blue trees right now! See what happens? Some of the more determined amongst you will have been able to remove the image, but probably by replacing it with another colour tree. That is you putting a positive command of “think about green trees” over the top of the negative one.

When you tell your kids ‘don’t spill it’ what you are actually doing is putting an image in their heads of them spilling it, so that’s what they do. A more compelling, useful suggestion, is to say ‘hold it carefully.’ Similarly, you tell someone not to be late and you are unconsciously giving them permission to be late.

Quite simply, any brand that talks about what it isn’t is bonkers, because it’s actually saying the opposite. So in this case, Huels are saying it’s ok to be a dick.

On further inspection of their DNA and How to (i.e. their behaviours), amongst the lovely statements like ‘Muck in together’, ‘do the right thing’ and even talk of ‘never resting on their laurels’ , there’s also ‘Hustle hard’, ‘Work fast’, Be better than yesterday’ and ‘Care more than the rest’. This actually means it starts to sound fairly aggressive, a bit ‘Wolf of Wall Street’-esque. The kind of culture where, as many businesses do, performance is confused with results and only outputs are rewarded not inputs.

Also important to note with an increasing importance on mental health in the workplace this certainly doesn’t come across as an environment that’s going to encourage frank conversations about mental health or flexible working! In fact perhaps people might feel concerned to flag difficult conversations for risk of being considered a dick.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for plain speaking, bold statements and am a massive advocate of not using waffly marketing bollocks but I can’t help but feel this is doing the opposite of its intention and to me, is actually reflective of a rather toxic culture.