2013 was my fifth consecutive year attending the music portion of the SXSW conference, however it was the first time that I was less concerned about the music and more focused on experiential marketing and branding. In the madness that was hosting three events for Ninkasi the following observations were first published over at Marketing Fun With Mike, but since SXSW is in the title you lonely music elitists may enjoy.
In the highly evolved digital data mining era, where frighteningly detailed information about any individual is readily available, how does a company fail to reach target consumers? Despite clever messages, multi-platform advertising and unprecedented incentive programs (Axe is offering a trip to space) there may be an emerging demographic slipping through the cracks.
In addition to the mass consumer, marketers need “tastemakers” and “influencers” within each demographic that actually have enough disposable income to purchase their product. The ideal tastemaker has a large social network and willingness to advocate the products they like. And when you look at the marketing campaigns aimed at the educated, unmarried, semi-professional “Man-Boy” demographic you are pretty much relegated to two subsets: The Hipster and The Bro.
Do I really think either of these demographics exist? Would anyone actually self-identify as a Hipster? A Bro? Irrelevant. Do I constantly feel as if advertisers are forcing me to be one or the other? Absolutely!
Though I admit I am of the “Man-Boy” demo, I feel myself, like many others are too Bro to be a Hipster and too Hipster to be a Bro.
Fortunately, I can’t take credit for the Hipster/Bro paradigm and will never have to explain if I’m being serious or ironic. The phrase actually came from a conversation I had with a member of Rare Monk after a performance at a client event in Austin during SXSW.
As legend has it, the phrase was on a sticker in a bathroom of a venue in their hometown of Portland, OR. And while I can’t verify it’s actual existence at this point, they, like myself, begrudgingly self-identified.
Who am I? Well, I take pride in my knowledge of indie music and most things relevant, but I’m not a judgmental “artist” of the trend chasing variety. Additionally, I enjoy competitive sports, but you won’t find me wearing a skull embroidered t-shirt pounding Jager shots while cheering on a UFC fight at Hooters. I’m lucky enough to work in a creative field but it’s not necessarily a lifestyle. I’m an inbetweener who marketers may be trying to reach, but if so, they’re doing it all wrong.
Take this K-Mart commercial for example:
The commercial is genuinely funny and I’ve only seen it advertised on Facebook. However the characters in the commercial are definitely older than the daily Facebook user who would enjoy it most. Not to mention K-Mart’s merchandise is hardly appealing to someone used to paying $25 for an Homage t-shirt.
And what about the random Little Caesar’s commercials?
Once again brilliant, successfully airing on television during sporting events, but people who find humor in the absurd are generally conscious of where their food is sourced. Sorry LC, but imitation cheese on cardboard is hardly edible, let alone organic.
The messages and platforms appear correct, so maybe it’s the products that are wrong.
How do I decide where to shop and eat? As a mass consumer, my decision making process involves a consultation with my socially, politically and environmentally semi-consciousness, although admittedly vainglorious. The actual vetting process is usually by the referral of friends without day jobs… a combination of the bar employed, self-employed and unemployed.
These friends get to stay out late, sleep in late and spend hours each day reading blogs and trolling social networking sites. Unfortunately for me, I’m getting older, spending more time focused on my career and as a result slowly losing touch with said friends. And while I realize that I can no longer keep up, I’m not giving up my Man-Boy status and I’ll be damned if I get duped into eating Little Caesars or shopping at K-Mart.
What’s the remedy? I don’t have a panacea, but I’d start by using the plethora of digital analytic tools to properly get to know both the current and target consumer equally. If you’re going to launch a campaign aimed at the Hipster/Bro demo, focus on what current and target consumers have in common and avoid pitting them against each other. Always start with a new or struggling product line rather than the entire brand. In this age of virality, the creative concept of the campaign itself can overshadow the message or even your entire brand. Not involving your brand will make distancing yourself from the hype machine or a bad decision more seamless. And just like the Hipsters and Bros themselves, stop being too cool for your own good.
We received an email from the band Son Step last week kindly asking us if we would mention their show on our blog. So here it is…
Son Step describe themselves as an “indie/electro/experimental” group from Philadelphia. After a quick listen we can say that the intricacy of the guitar play is appealing and the experimental setup definitely adds to the progressive nature of the music.
Here’s a live performance:
We’ve yet to see these guys live so we can’t necessarily vouch, but if you want to see Son Step live they will be playing at Rumba Cafe on Saturday night.
More about the band:
Son Step is a unique collaborative effort featuring four active forces in Philadelphia’s original music scene. Hungry for exploration, the band’s members (Pat Lamborn, Matt Scarano, and twin brothers Jon and Chris Coyle) are apt to mix up both instrumentation and individual roles. Live performances often feature a communal sharing of vocal duties, and are spattered with quirky, intoxicating sounds made on guitar, synthesizer, samplers, bass and drums. This is characteristic of the band’s first EP Spooky Tooth (2011), as well as their debut full length Here Comes Dreamboat (2012), a kaleidoscope recording that effortlessly combines many elements. Dense layers of percussion and off-kilter rhythms often give way to moments of intricate composition and heartfelt lyricism. Colorful harmonies and oddly addictive grooves rise to the surface without notice. And while the band touches upon an array of influences- ambient, post-punk, world music, and beyond- they also create something urgent and distinctly original, something that should be heard by listeners and audiences seeking a new kind of music.
The first time I saw Cold War Kids was in the spring of 2006 at Pianos in New York. As they started their set with “Quiet Please” — less of a song and more of a concert etiquette set of instructions comparable to that of an airline — I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately last night was hardly the same experience and I should have known better from my pre-concert crowd observations.
Indeed Cold War Kids sold out The Newport Music Hall, which just so happens to be my venue of choice as far as PromoWest is concerned. However, I felt things were awry watching the crowd ecstatically cheer when each muddled pre-show song would end, thinking the band was about to take the stage. While I’ll admit none of the songs transitioned into the next, the fact that the lights never dimmed should have quelled the applause. And not to sound like a snarky asshole, I realize everyone has to start their live music journey somewhere, but the sheer number of people who were completely clueless was perplexing.
Calm down folks the techs are still on the stage…
Needless to say once the Cold War Kids did take the stage, they certainly didn’t start with Quiet Please. Instead they proclaimed “We’re going to play a bunch of new songs” which was met with the same rabid cheers. They then proceeded to laying into a number of unrecognizable tracks which lacked the musical prowess I have grown to expect from such talented musicians. Please note that I am not the type to start disliking a band as they get popular, just look at the name of this blog. Even my favorite Cold War Kids song is “Golden Gate Jumpers” which isn’t some rarity or b-side, instead the most structured track off their second album Loyalty to Loyalty.
As I recall, Cold War Kids had a free jazz style of percussion who’s lack of structure was only out anarchisted by Nathan’s janky keys. Not only was this unmistakable sound nowhere to be found from the jump, but Nathan didn’t even touch an instrument until, maybe the third song? While this is probably a direct result of the addition of a fifth member it also became quite obvious the band has a new focal point: Nathan’s voice.
The newly formed rhythm section is indeed tighter and the strategy behind the more palatable sound will expand the Cold War Kids fanbase. Unfortunately it will also alienate those who actually like the chaos. But its all understandable as after the third album its about the bottom line not necessarily the artistic process.
Nevertheless and at risk of sounding like the stereotypical aging scenester, Cold War Kids should know better than to include one of their most brilliant songs (We Used to Vacation) in an encore and skip an entire guitar solo. Then again, if you’re trying to make all the songs sound alike you’ve got to omit the elements that made them unique.
Words by Kyle McMullen:
Last night I left my house under the assumption that I was joining Mike to see a couple bands, drink a few beers and write a handful of words. Obviously extensive research was conducted regarding these bands…
as Dream Tiger kicked things off only a mere 90 minutes past their promoted set time.
Alone stands a woman with a smooth voice unique to herself. A minimalist show of lights fill the empty space as movement is limited to the waving of hands and snapping of fingers reminiscent of a poetic open mic night at a pretentious coffee shop. Not sure if fronting a full band, orchestrating minimalist electro-pop or even partnering with a bass heavy DJ would compliment the vocal prowess, but as is leaves little to be desired.
Next was Astronautalis (Charles Andrew Bothwell) and before a single note was played the audience was informed we would be “screamed at for the next 45 minutes.” Mmmm Kay? I figured he was kidding since the first performance was soft enough to soundtrack paint drying.
As soon as the band started a controlled scream, not of the death metal, skull shattering blurb of noise variety, but one that clearly took dedication and skill to perfect. The first song was solid enough that if the remainder were similar, I would have been perfectly content. Which couldn’t be said for the microphone stand that was immediately tossed off stage with authority.
A few more songs and a lot more screams before the music suddenly stops. At this point our triumphant lead turns to the audience a requests topics for his freestyle rapping. Some of the more noteworthy highlights were as follows:
Crab liberation movement
Bothwell’s self described “historical fiction hip-hop” had the crowd eating out of his hand and roaring after each song. Yet I stood in amazement as if it was all happening to someone else in a slow motion horror movie scene. Luckily our photographer Mike snapped me out of it just in time to shake his hand before he exited stage left.
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