What happens when it’s time to change the uniform?

30 Aug

If you watch the news or own a fixie I’m sure you’ve heard that American Apparel is in the throes of frightening financial woes.

Here in New Zealand, this information is particularly upsetting, since the company is owned by Eric Watson, our only rich person besides Peter Jackson and the Finn Brothers.

I know I haven’t made a habit of featuring journalism on The Shortest Word, but this story in the Guardian brought a very interesting perspective.

American Apparel was founded in 1989. In recent years its marketing has very consciously tapped into the hipster youth market, which emerged after the self-inflicted death of emo.

…the current hipster trend is an apathetic postmodern capitalist sigh, breathing out the recycled air from a million forgotten advertising campaigns in one big stale cloud. Modern hipsterism is a death spiral of a co-opted public relentlessly co-opting itself, doing all the advertising work for the advertisers.

Place your brand in the hands of your audience and you have a powerful branding tool, the most valuable publicity machine in the world. For American Apparel, the product has become something more – a cultural uniform.

In advertising, we’ve been talking seriously about co-opting customers as brand advocates for the past five years. It’s the strategy that lies at the heart of social media. Perhaps what we need to learn from the American Apparel case study is that the strategy is not bulletproof.

What it has created here is success as a trend. A short-term gain. Fine in many industries, but when you’re a clothing manufacturer, it’s a strategy that’ll ensure your brand is irrelevant the moment the movement ends.

What happens when it’s time to change the uniform?


6 Responses to “What happens when it’s time to change the uniform?”

  1. Aimee August 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    I start to wonder if, in this age, all ideas and changes of perception are shortlived. It’s only a matter of days before something interesting is reduced to it’s simplest and most marketable form, thanks to this internet. Everything becomes a copy of a copy of a copy until it is benign, formless and easily digested by the masses.

    Calling it the hipster MOVEMENT also sets it up to sound like it intended to be some kind of revolution, and it has somehow failed at that. It is really just a shift in the pattern of consumption and I think that pattern at heart suffers from a short attention span. I need something new, and easy, quick. Let’s copy those guys. Oooh, there’s a website for it.

    • Aimee August 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm #


      • jonoaidney August 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

        I agree, but I wonder if these shifts are more than just a change in consumer patterns. At one level, ’emo’ required teenagers to buy the uniform – but it also asked them to buy into the behaviours, attitutes and outlooks.

        The article identifies ‘hipsters’ as a breed of apolitical hyper-consumers. More of an anti-revolution. I wonder if this mindset will be apparent in things like education, voter turnout, knowledge of current events, etc.

        You’re right, though, that these patterns are shortlived. Potentially so shortlived that they have no significant effect on those that take part.

  2. Aimee August 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    Generation Meh. I am apolitical. I’m tired of American Apparel. I can’t point to the Gulf of Mexico. I could google it. Meh.

    • jonoaidney August 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

      But goddamn my hair looks good today!

      • Amber August 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

        Does it? Take a photo with your Macbook Pro and post it on Facebook.

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