For this new generation, style wasn’t something you could buy in a department store, it became something you found in a thrift shop, or ideally, made yourself. The way to be cool wasn’t to look like a television star: it was to look as though you had never seen television. Matt Granfield, Hipstermattic.
It is one of the advertising’s world’s greatest challenges; how to sell to a demographic who will dump the brand as soon as it becomes too popular. The problem is compounded by the growing number of hipster subcultures; young urban singles, parents with good incomes and second homes (generally with a veggie patch and a goat) and gay hipsters whose embracement of beards and lumberjack shirts is a gentle rebuke of metrosexual culture. Since the birth of the contemporary hipster (generally believed to have occurred in Brooklyn, around 2000) success stories have mostly occurred in fashion brands (American Apparel, Urban Outfitters) and niche online marketplaces (Scoutmob, Karmaloop).
Lets look at two recent examples of hipster-focussed campaigns. One that gets it right, and the other that seems to have completely misread the market it’s aiming for.
Hipsters prefer art to commodity and brands can gain much leverage by teaming up with other ‘legitimate’ cultural and creative institutions, platforms and phenomenon when trying to gain ground in the market. Hendrik’s Gin, with its retro packaging that looks like it’s jumped off an apothecary shelf and unique rose and cucumber infusion, sells itself on its left-of-centre uniqueness. The company, which was only started in 1999, has superbly crafted a story using ‘cabinet of curiosity’- type weirdness made popular by Victorian academia into this stunning new spot.
At the other end of the scale is this promotional video for Urban House, a new boutique hotel in Copenhagen. Trotting out every tired hipster cliché in the book it has been branded as joke by Vice and other hipster blogs, though may actually end up succeeding on an ironic level.
Whilst the current backlash to hipsters and hipsterdom seems mean-spirited (eating kale and riding a fixed gear bike is hardly a threat to mankind) marketers could well harness the emerging sense of irony in our cool communities. Take this recent news item (that went viral) about a pair of UK hipsters who dressed their beards for Yuletide, or this ad for Schick razors, which tells their customers to ‘free your skin’.
These messages hint that a fresher, more light-hearted approach may open the door to the most elusive and fickle of demographic groups.