I came across an interesting article over the weekend on Highsnobiety ‘How Hipsters changed the World‘. That headline is certainly ‘click bait’ but what followed was a logical argument explaining how this change is justified. It starts off with a description of what we would generally call a ‘Hipster’ but notes these traits have now swapped over to the next buzzword of ‘Millennial’. From reading many articles on this subject, it is clear the definition for Hipster is so broad now that it is more a ‘way of life’ than a look.
The writer Aleks Eror of Highsnobiety notes that ‘My view is that hipsterdom didn’t die, but rather it shaped the mainstream in its own image and seeped into the very fabric of Western culture to such an extent that it became redundant. I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I say that hipsters changed the world.’
The article is persuasive in its argument that Hipsterdom revolutionised many major cities in the western world which then became aspirational and subsequently gentrified. Their own lack of wealth added credence to artisan, craft, vintage and retro. Now we spend thousands for that look. ‘We all know what a hipster bar or a hipster coffee shop or a hipster burger joint looks like. By bringing DIY back into prominence, hipsters helped democratize entrepreneurialism, fueling a rise in small business owners in the “experience” economy that millennials are said to be so fond of. Is it a coincidence that crowd funding sites like Kickstarter now exist?
‘Many would argue that the hipster era began in the late ’90s, coinciding with the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle’. If you have not read the book ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein then its certainly worth the read in relation to this article but also branding. The Highsnobiety article got me thinking of another book ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell where he refers to ‘the law of the few’ and that ‘the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.’
In this book, he talks about how trends tipped and ultimately became successful. Some of these where by design and many were not. This is an interesting book in relation to marketing today and the role of ‘influencers’. There is much discussion about this group at the moment due primarily to their large social following but also ‘engagement’. This I believe is because its measurable in terms of likes and comments but what real world impact is debatable. Proctor and Gamble for example found that focusing too narrow was not good for business and needed to go “much more broad” with their advertising on social media sites.
Another pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson is to re-launch its baby range as ‘millennials’ go organic. This is another net effect of ‘Hipsterdom’ as other companies adjust to changing habits and tastes concerning transparency, sustainability and craft – all hipster or is it millennial traits now? We are on our second or third hipster generation meaning they are no longer a minority. This is evident in all marketing today.
The marketing mix has however changed. Marketeers are still waiting for the ‘data’ on ‘influencers’. My own view is that its another low hanging fruit that ultimately has little impact on most companies spend unless aligned with a more integrated campaign. Excuse the merged models here but ultimately ‘influencers’ are nothing without the ‘mavens’ and ‘tastemakers’ of the world. Influencers don’t create, they are the connectors. If they are positioned correctly they have a very important role to play in the short term but as direct followers grow, their role in line with data will become less relevant. The modern world doesn’t do layers. Kim Khardashian is an influencer now but Kanye West is the creative, the tastemaker. Kim needs him now like influencers need ‘hipsters’.