Late last year, Diesel turned thirty years old. Renzo Rosso, Diesel’s rock star founder, celebrated with epic parties and concerts around the world – all free. They also partnered with Rizzoli to publish a gorgeous book about the history of Diesel’s advertising and communications. As I have mentioned earlier, Renzo asked me to write the commentary and what started as some thoughts for the introduction turned into a 10,000 word script.

I’ve long admired Diesel for its creative and irreverent style. Its thirty year history is a story about overcoming adversity in pursuit of a dream. When Renzo started out in 1978, stores weren’t interested in vintage denim. Renzo knew otherwise, and thirty years later the world can’t get enough.

This spirit has fueled Diesel’s approach to advertising. Diesel connects with us, involves us, and participates with us. This is communication that respects your intelligence. The ads are certainly a relief from the bombardment of today’s boring and mindless ads. As Renzo says: “It’s a form of loving – if you love somebody, you put respect first.”

Looking over Diesel’s success, I see simple and powerful guidelines for positive change. Here are four of them:

Be Yourself:
Throughout its advertising and clothing line, Diesel celebrates the individual – people with alternative lifestyles or people who may not fit in but are open and honest about it. Diesel’s product offering shows that too, with nearly 3,000 items per year. Fight the forces of conformity.

Attitude, Have One:
Diesel is full-on attitude. Irreverence for conventional advertising won Diesel not just award after award, but praise from customers and outrage from the sad souls who took the message at face value. Nothing extraordinary comes from ordinary actions. Diesel’s 2008 launch of its fragrance asked: “Are you alive?”

Champion The Revolution:
Think for yourself. Challenge tradition. This is the path to reinvention and revolution. After thirty years, Diesel is as unpredictable as ever and the company is in constant motion. Diesel experiments, breaks down barriers, subverts norms, and throws caution to the wind.

Forget It All, Just Have Fun:
The Diesel experience is about Joy. Combine the surreal imagination of Willy Wonka, the individuality of David Bowie, the provocation of Andy Warhol, and you’re approaching the Diesel Planet. Diesel’s pursuit of fun turns out to be a radical model for business and for life.

Diesel has reinvented the institutions of both denim and brand communication. This bravery led to an expansion of the brand far, far beyond the Italian village of Molvena. It’s been one hell of a story so far. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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