More Than A Love Affair: Why Brands Need to Embrace the Ethnoscape

Over the past decade we’ve seen an incredible rise in street culture, and the birth of a multi-billion dollar industry filled with hypebeasts1 who line up –– and sometimes camp out –– religiously outside flagship stores to cop2 the latest heat3.

The rise of street culture itself is synonymous with brands who themselves have paved the way for others to follow, amassing fans, and in the process creating an extremely profitable reselling market that allows young men and women to earn incomes beyond drugs and crime. Brands like Jordan, Jerry Lorenzo’s highly-sought after “Fear of God” collections, Ronnie Fieg’s multifunctional lifestyle brand KITH, and Virgil Abloh’s OFF — WHITE all come to mind, but none more so than Supreme, the New York-based skate shop started by James Jebbia in 1994.

Today, Supreme has become the “most desired clothing brand for anyone involved in streetwear” and, in turn, the “most resalable clothing brand in the world.” It’s so powerful that someone can buy a Supreme-branded crowbar with no use in mind, and sell it as soon as they walk out the store, at a 200% profit. Without a doubt, the emblematic brand has transcended its skateboarding roots and become the standard of contemporary cool.

Shouldn’t this be what all brands strive for; a strong following of consumers willing to camp outside your store for days on end before you release new items, allowing you to sell out all your inventory within a day? I think so.

But where Supreme’s roadmap has been a mixture of breaking the rules to earn cult status and maintaining the same level of supply no matter how high the demand gets, we as custodians of our own brands need to figure out how we can achieve this type of greatness using our own unique value propositions.

Embracing what street culture has done and how brands have grown within it is a start, yes, but remember to stay true to what your brand stands for. Most importantly, never sell out as soon as your brand starts to build its identity.

Can a brand that has no association with street culture thrive off this growing phenomenon?

Absolutely.

Street culture is built on a foundation of collaboration, so think outside the box and seek to collaborate with others who can expose you to new markets, consumers and channels that you wouldn’t normally find you brand in. Never underestimate the power of ‘x’ –– the international symbol of collaboration and collaborators alike, used so effectively to create hype around brands who join together to offer the public something truly unique. Think Supreme x Louis Vuitton and Bape x Lacoste.

We need to leverage every tool we can to grow and develop, with the hopes of one day gaining the cult status we all so deeply strive for as custodians and marketers for brands, even if it’s only for a small period of time.

Collaborating with each other doesn’t only make that easier, it makes it a little more possible.

 

Vahith Baliram is the Brand Manager for Castle Lager.

1 An individual who wears whichever brand or style is in vogue at the time.

2 To get, receive, purchase, steal or have.

3 Used to describe nice, rare, exclusive or vintage clothing and apparel.

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