Advertisements Drawing on Elements of Subcultures to Appropriate The Cool Factor

Introduction

Consumerism has emerged as one of the most dominant forces in the 21st-century market. A strong urge to conform is largely to blame for its steady rise as individuals who find themselves in various subcultures strive to be accepted fully as authentic members. In an industrialized world of alpha consumers, “cool kids” and pseudo-cool persons paying attention to the elements that make up a subculture can determine the brands success or failure in the market. A widely accepted fact is that these alpha consumers more often than not band together in a cooperative gesture to fully embrace consumerism through the brands that they identify with. “Cool” becomes an aspect that can now be purchased for those loyal enough to follow the trendsetters (Parsons & Maclaran, 2011, p. 91). Over the years, the mainstream has made concerted efforts to co-opt this “cool” factor in their marketing and advertisement campaigns while presenting their brands and in time creating a following that equates “coolness” with being fashionable. Companies that were in tune with what was in vogue amongst many of the subcultures that exist in society became aware of the fact that the “cool” factor was the greatest advertising goldmine.

If utilized in the right way, tapping into the full potential of what is considered “cool” by subcultures could possibly catapult these firms to greatness. Moreover, a subculture such as that of the hipsters that presents an anti-establishment image has also been the focus of mass media advertisements as it represents the figure of a modern day cultural rebel. These individuals seem to resist the mandates of civilization with enterprising firms taking advantage of this perceived “coolness” to facilitate the subcultures rebellion by producing consumer goods specific to them. The purpose of this argumentative essay is thus to provide an elaborate depiction of the relationship that exists between advertising and the “cool” factor. To aid this elucidation, three advertisements will be analyzed; Beyonce and Tina Knowles appearance in the “Got Milk?” campaign, Harley-Davidson print advertisement and the 2008 Converse Connectivity campaign.

Example1 : Beyonce and Tina Knowles in the “Got Milk?” campaign

The image above would catch the eye of anyone familiar with pop culture. Beyonce is a popular celebrity who since 1997 has been prolific in churning out hit singles and albums for her loyal fans. In the advertisement, a young radiant Beyonce has one knee on the couch while her other leg crosses that of her mother Tina who is seated next to her holding her by the waist. Tina is holding a tall glass of milk while they both stare directly at the viewer with a stripe of milk residue on their upper lips. “Got Milk?”Campaign began in 1993 as a pilot project of Goodby Silverstein &Partners advertising agency for the then California Milk Processor Board to encourage the consumption of cow’s milk among Americans. From a marketing perspective, the aim of the advertisements was to increase milk sales through the strategic use influential campaigns and commodity brands (Arenofsky, 2009, p. 57). The signature “Milk Moustache” became its logo with many celebrities coming on board to bolster these efforts (Keller, 2013). Beyonce and Tina Knowles were among the many celebrities who graced this print advertisement, faces that were very familiar the viewers. These two celebrities are well known and their appearance in the campaign reassures those viewing it as most people know them and as a result, find it easy to trust them.

Furthermore, by featuring Beyonce’s mother, the advertisement introduces a new twist; family values. The advertisements emotional appeal is strengthened by Beyonce’s reminiscing on how she always wanted to grow into a woman similar to her own mother. These sentiments are made clear by the advertisement as they are pictured together side by side. Facts about the nutritional value of milk are also featured in the advertisement including little-known facts about weight loss. To aficionados of pop culture who idolize Beyonce, such a campaign would go a long way in encouraging them to increase their consumption of milk. In addition to this, the catch phrase in the advertisement gives a factual slogan that drinking milk regularly can actually help one lose weight. Young girls and women seem to be the target audience of the campaign with Beyonce being the epitome of the person they would want to become.

Example 2: Harley-Davidson print advertisement

The image above is that of a Harley-Davison motorcycle advertisement intended to depict what the company stands for; freedom.  Gentleman dressed casually in his biker jacket, blue jeans and boots rides his motorcycle while the lady sitting behind holds on to him. They seem to be riding in a freeway devoid of traffic enhancing their sense of new freedom. It is through such advertisements that Harley-Davidson has been able to command loyalty in its consumers. The freedom that it represents is mostly aimed at individuals who identified as hippies in the 1960’s and the modern day hipster (Rollin, Pineo & Mommer, 2012, p.23). The common denominator in these two groups of people is their desire to live life to the fullest in freedom and without any restrictions. To them, experiencing freedom is best done behind the wheel of an 800-pound Harley-Davison motorcycle that ultimately creates a primal connection with its rider. It is for this reason that both men and women have coveted this brand of motorcycle for over 110 years with a brand loyalty that is second to none. The Harley- Davidson motorcycle company views life as a journey contrary to views held by those who suggest that life is a destination.

Consumers who view this advertisement would be of the opinion that riding on a Harley-Davison motorcycle would make them feel like “rebels”. To them, this is a new an alien concept, especially if they are the typical soccer mom, office-bound Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or lawyer. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what background they come from. As soon as they are on a Harley-Davison, they feel like defiant hipster rebels ready to live life to the fullest and experience all that it has to offer them (Noel, 2009, p. 48). The brand thus creates a personal identity in those who choose to embrace it, allowing them to be their truest self by giving them the much-needed freedom. The brand also encourages those who intending to ride them to escape the monotony of routine and live life like the legends that they are. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company has also enjoyed the loyalty of its customers as a result of “Harley lifestyle” that they offer to their target market ( Schultz, 2009, p. 107). Harley Owners Group (HOG), as it is fondly referred to, is a group of hard-core target owners instrumental in fostering camaraderie among all the members creating a deep emotional connection with this consumer product.

Example 3: The 2008 Converse “Connectivity” campaign

The image above depicts a Converse sneaker billboard in Berlin, Germany that was part of the 2008 “Connectivity” advertisement campaign. In the image presented to the audience, celebrities ranging from Joan Jett, Greenday. Sid Vicious to James Dean are all standing in a horizontal line with their legs apart. The only thing that they seem to have in common is the Converse sneakers that they are all sporting as their feet overlap. The Converse sneaker logo is placed at the periphery of the black and white images. In 2008, Converse launched this campaign during the celebration of their hundredth anniversary to celebrate the rich legacy that the brand represented while the shoes design remained relatively the same. The print advertisement is in black and white while being presented outdoors to reach a younger demographic. In the image, influential artists from the past and those that a reign presently appear in the advertisement and were use to emphasize Converse as a conduit for connectedness (Ries & Trout, 2001). All campaigns have a mission that they intend to achieve. That of the 2008 “Connectivity” campaign was to encourage the younger generation of teens to leave the mainstream behind and do their utmost to be unique in all ways possible.

In the 1960’s the footwear was associated with grunge and punk subculture. Musicians were the ambassadors of this new way of life often wearing the Converse sneaker as their symbol. Bands such as Nirvana and The Ramones had their members dressing in this brand to further push agenda of their subculture. The brand later took advantage of this opportunity to use these idols of music in advertising it and showing how it connected them all to each other. A sense of community is created by the advertisement which seems to transcend time as the musicians come from different eras (Lantos, 2015, p. 23). It is the Converse sneaker brand that links these eras figuratively and literally while presenting a personalized format of advertisements. All individuals depicted in the billboard represent the type of person that would most likely purchase Converse sneakers. The role of the artists is to provide a link between the merchandise in question and its subsequent recommendation. In the Converse sneaker “Connectivity” campaign the consumer is likely to be attracted “cool” factor as the footwear seems to be endorsed by influential musicians.

  Conclusion

Advertisements take up the task of cultural intermediaries when marketing strategist use subcultures and the elements found in them to appropriate a sense of coolness that most consumers are drawn to. Whether it is Beyonce and Tina Knowles in the “Got Milk?” campaign, Harley-Davidson Advertisements or Converse sneakers “Connectivity” campaign, subcultures are studied and their elements use to create a sense of “coolness” if one decides to switch to the brand. The high sign value that celebrities, feminist sensibilities, nostalgia and fringe music genres have been used in advertisements as it these groups that are most likely to depict a “cool” factor from a subculture.

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