Duckie’s ‘Pretty in Pink’ Lesson for Brands

Marketers, I’m not sure how you spent your Valentine’s Day, but I attended the 30th anniversary re-release of “Pretty in Pink.” And it was there that I realized brands can learn a very real lesson from the Duckman himself, Philip “Duckie” Dale.

Exclusive Pretty in Pink 30th anniversary art by Jeff Delgado for Fandango
Exclusive Pretty in Pink 30th anniversary art by Jeff Delgado for Fandango

Marketers, I’m not sure how you spent your Valentine’s Day, but I was dressed in a (mostly) pink dress with one of my best friends and her nine-year-old daughter for the 30th anniversary re-release of the 1986 Brat Pack classic, “Pretty in Pink.”

For the anniversary showing, there was a short feature at the end where the cast and director talked about how the movie was originally scripted with Philip “Duckie” Dale (Jon Cryer) ending up with Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald). But Molly explained how she never really had that kind of chemistry with Jon; instead he was like a brother to her, and it showed.

When the movie, with the original ending, was shown to test audiences, they responded poorly. So six months after wrapping, the cast and crew got together again to re-film the ending, this time with rich-kid Blane McDonnagh (Andrew McCarthy) getting the girl.

As a kid, I never questioned it. Blane was cute and rich and Andie wanted to be with him, while keeping sweet and slightly overbearing Duckie at bay. But watching it as an adult — even before the knowledge about the original ending — my heart knew Andie should be with Duckie.

Why? Because Duckie was genuine. From the tips of his scuffed-up white pointed-toe shoes to the top of his pompadour and pork pie hat, this kid was always his true self.

He didn’t conform and try to fit in with the rich kids, because he had no desire to be like them. Duckie didn’t try to make himself more like Blane in order to win the affections of the girl he was so hopelessly in love with.

Duckie Dale prom quote from Pretty in PinkNow, brands, you may argue: “But Duckie DIDN’T get the girl! Why do we want to be like the King of the Friendzone?”

Remember: Duckie was supposed to get the girl … it was the actors’ lack of chemistry, and — let’s say, hubris — of the test audiences of the mid-80s that kept him from that goal. Nothing Duckie the character did.

If you want more proof, ask just about any woman who she would have picked. Or google image search “team duckie” and discover how many t-shirts there are proclaiming this sentiment.

Even Molly Ringwald’s daughter agrees.

Team Duckie TweetDuckie may have been the underdog, but he knew exactly who he was and never waivered. And think of other brands that started as underdogs: Apple. Ben & Jerry’s. Underdogs are relatable.

As Kathryn Wheeler writes in this excellent Hubspot post:

Underdogs are always a beacon of hope, a reminder that sometimes you can beat the odds.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself, brands. Be authentic. Be the underdog. Be relatable. And, just maybe, instead of getting the girl, you’ll get an audience of devoted and loyal fans.

And now, for your viewing pleasure … I dare you to watch this and not have the adorable Duckie steal your heart.


Author: Melissa Ward

Melissa Ward is the managing editor for Target Marketing, and she has opinions! More importantly, she's a nerd for great copy and design, a disciple of authenticity, and really loves it when marketers get it right.

3 thoughts on “Duckie’s ‘Pretty in Pink’ Lesson for Brands”

  1. I swear, Melissa, sometimes I feel like you are writing these posts just for me. Or, we are the same person. I officially now love you–PinP is one of my all-time favorites. I recently just re-watched it for the first time–as an adult–and I was totally Team Duckie (I’d always been Team Blane in high school).

    I’m not sure I would even have been able to make the connection to branding (what with all the stars in my eyes), but what a great parallel. You’ve done it again. 🙂

    1. Aw, thank you Stephanie! Such kind words 🙂 Fun fact: For almost all of college I was a redhead, and had a haircut that was VERY Molly Ringwald. I got stopped on the street constantly, so these movies are near and dear to my heart.

      And I think marketers can probably find a lesson in just about anything because in order to make a connection to our audience, we have to understand the most basic of human needs and emotions. Movies tell a story, and so do the best marketers.

      And of course, so did Duckie.

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