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BRAND

If i was young in the late 60’s i’d be selling floral scarves – Brands and Subcultures

Week in week out we talk about the youth and trends associated with the ADHDed. Every post we appreciate how hetrogenous this group is. Inspite of this diversity we also observe that there are brands that acknowledge and understand this diversity whilst others are usually found playing catch up, stumbling over themselves with only stereotypical insights to work with, fighting the truth of youth subcultures.

Remember school, for some of us it was the time we still cant get over, whereas there were others who had diffficulty getting through that time. Besides this fleeting generalization there were groups you would hang out with, shared common interests with, people who either matched your personality type or had something you were interested in to offer. Eitherway somewhere you connected to a certain set and subscribed to their disposition and manerisms.The Geeks, the Jocks, the regionally oriented birds of a feather etc. Point really being that we’ve all been through the pledge of being same same yet different. And thats what subcultures are all about.

Now amplify this idea to influence a much larger set of people and it turns into an unescapable phenomenon.

There have been many such important influential youth cultures and we list down some of the big ones to

a)reinforce the idea of subcultures so brands dont make false assumptions about youth
being a homogeneous lump and
b)observe how some brands have benefited from associations with these subcultures

1.Gangsta

A derivative subgenre of Hip-Hop, the Gangsta subculture exists in tandem with the musical genre of the same name. It took off in the late 80’s and forged its niche with the help of musical artists like 2 Pac, Notorious B.I.G, Dr. Dre in the early 90’s.

Gangsta lyrics reflected urban crime and the violent lifestyles of inner-city youths. This in turn bore the true nature of hip hop subculture and was represented through clothes , their language and lifestyle.

Almost every brand associated with Gangsta Rap was pardon my ghetto “bling”. It complimented the sense of entitlement of people who represented this subculture.

The Fubu Nike Case – Its interesting how Fubu started off as an anti Nikelike brand but now Nike doesn just rule the court but also the street.
There are other examples such as –
G-Unit – Sean John – Jeans
Adidas , Echo – Caps
Chrsler 300 & Escalade Cars
Sparkling Teeth with Diamonds ( maybe De Beers if not why not? )

Again Escalade , apart from being the most likely car to be stolen on American streets ( what better way to prove you are a gangsta), the car or SUV I should say is an epitome of larger than life coolness. Apart from that , modern culture also acts as an influencer. Remember Tony Soprano, head gangster in the HBO hit gangster drama “The Sopranos.” He drove two Escalades (black and then white).


G Unit the Premier Brand In Gangsta Clothing

2.Rockers

In the early sixties, rockers were the rougher, dirtier version of Greasers, but the antithesis to hippies. To be part of this club, you needen a mean-looking motorbike, long hair, tattoos and a curled lip.

What were the other accessories – Leather Jackets; Sunglasses, cigarretes and Beer. It was rock n roll all the way and some brands did find the right chords.
The tough mean look oozing masculinity clearly crossed out flowery shirts and long bottom pajama’s as a symbol. So some of these brands found a pretty direct connect –

Levi’s – Leather Jacket
Levi’s or Wrangler – Jeans
Rayban – Sunglasses
Brylcreem – to keep those Hair in Place
Motorcyles ( similar subculture can be seen with respect to Harley Davidson Riders )

Levi’s for instance understood the growing subcultures of traveling groups so they came out with products like Levi’s 511 Commuter Jeans which incorporated cyclist friendly features which would become popular among a wide range of youth subcultures.

3.Hippies

The hippie movement started in the US during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. It primarily stood for Peace and Love and if one observes the various symbols of the movement the coherence is a massive lesson in itself.

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Immortalized by Rock n Roll icons such as Hendrix, The Beatles, Twiggy, and anyone that went to Woodstock, this look was all about color, flower power, corduroys and looking laid back, MAN!!!

Bell-bottoms,
Vests,
Tie-dyed garments,
Peasant blouses
Go Go boots
VolksWagen Trucks
Pot and lots of it (Manali as a town perhaps made a name for itself as one of the weed capitals then, who knows)

In terms of brands Hippies adopted the VW Kombi as their preferred choice of transport. And why not?
As a free spirited , doobie smoking traveler why would i go for the overtly capitalist fast car (inspite of Janis Joplin’s association with Mercedes) which has poor gas mileage and does more harm than good to the environment? VW Kombi had all the visual “I dont care” attributes, plus it was functional – one could quickly pack up and travel to where the action was at any given time. Their gypsy like travel habits also meant many hitchhiked to get to and from major hippie events. You drive , you get high , you go back cook yourself some food and sleep in the spacious back , get up and off to your next destination. What else would a hippie want ??

4.Gamers

Gamers as an alternative culture generally relates to those who spend the majority of their leisure time (and often even time that’s not) playing games and probably talking about games, reading about games, listening to video game soundtracks, preparing for games or making games.

There was a point of time where Gaming was considered a solo activity. You buried in your computer screen playing Duke Nukkem or Wolfenstein but with the dawn of multiplayer games , Role Playing Games ( RPG) and then Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) , gaming culture has totally changed.
With internet and global networks it has become very easy to get lost in your own sense of reality.
Some may diss gamers as being nerds and geeks but what we are seeing is the emergence of a new, widespread and unorthadox subculture.
Smart Phones provide the perfect platform for that and then there is the talk about gamification so you never know ,we all might be Gamers One day if we aren’t in one way or another already.


There are other identified subcultures – how difficult for instance is it to sell a Westham United jersey to a football hooligan from West Ham.
The understanding from the above though is straight forward, subcultures emerge for a reason, but when they become too popular and homogenous they become difficult to identify. It is for a smart marketer to identify these memes early. We’re pretty sure there are youth subcultures in India as well and i think we’ll go back to the drawing board to identify some of them in a subsequent post.

Heading to the Metallica gig tomorrow, that might be a start, what do you think?

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