Walking The Walk: Ralph Lauren’s got it. Tommy Hilfiger doesn’t. And Jay-Z’s could be fleeting.
Street cred, that is. At least, that’s the view of marketing consultant Jameel Spencer, whose clients include a trio of P. Diddy ventures: Sean Jean Clothing, Justin’s Restaurant and Daddy’s House Social Programs. “Jay-Z’s Reebok thing [footwear] is going to be a short-term success,” the Blue Flame Marketing and Advertising president predicted to trend hunters and marketers at Rolling Stone’s Youth Culture Conference, held June 11 at Powder studio in Manhattan’s Chelsea section. “If someone is getting paid just to put their name on something, it won’t work for long. Everyone knows if you turn on a Jay-Z video, he’s wearing Air Force One,” Spencer said of the Nike shoes. “Jay-Z loves Nike.” [Nike is a former client of Spencer’s, as are Versace and Calvin Klein.]
In contrast, Spencer said, “Ralph’s honest about who he is and makes great quality products. When I put on my Polo shirt, I feel like I’m lying in a hammock in the Hamptons; I’m feeling a certain level of affluence.” For this event, however, Spencer was sporting Adidas warmups and sneaks, a brand whose street cred he credited, in part, to Run-DMC’s Eighties rap, “My Adidas.” Meanwhile, Hilfiger doesn’t have street cred because he tries too hard, said Spencer.
Naturally, street cred’s seen some changes since then. A 21st-century brand that portrays both affluence and authenticity can achieve it, quite unlike decades past when pricy designer labels and street sensibilities lived at opposite ends of the style spectrum. But that’s easier said than done. “You’ve got to stop talking about street cred and start investing in the culture,” Spencer asserted — against the ironic backdrop of a business conference.
Break On Through? “We’re overmarketed to but we’re adept at protecting ourselves,” asserted Alex Bogusky, creative director of Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky. His belief was shared by an unlikely suspect — Eric J. Furda, Columbia University’s executive director of undergraduate admissions, who joined Bogusky in a panel discussion dubbed All Branding, All the Time, also held at the Rolling Stone Youth Culture Conference. “You can’t put anything past 17- to 21-year-olds,” Furda claimed. “They filter things out.”For Alissa Quart, author of “Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teens,” though, a protective coating isn’t enough. “Is culture a mirror or an ax?” she queried. “The flaw in this thinking is there’s a Darwinian aspect to it.”
Au contraire, argued Peter Arnell, chairman and chief creative officer of brand marketing consultant Arnell Group. “It’s a commercial world. The more we keep going at kids and try to sell them shit, the more they like us,” he insisted with a laugh.
The group did agree on one thing: It keeps getting tougher for marketing messages to break through. “Teens are bored,” Bogusky noted. “Brands aren’t as different as they used to be because they’ve all gone out and talked to the same people. We have a lot of egg-shaped brands, brands without edges.”
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@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
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