Murketing on Newbury Street

In his book, Buying In, Walker talks about the common misconception that “Generation Y” or “The Millenials” is a population that is particularly difficult to sell anything to, as they “see through” marketing. Well, do we?

Take the clothing store, LF, for example. I recently visited the LF on Newbury Street in Boston. The first thing I noticed was the fact that we could barely find the store, even when we were basically looking right at it. Distracted by the DJ blasting music from 344 across the street (a well-known, pricey store filled with popular brands like Free People and Michael Stars) and by the floods of shoppers entering the three story Forever 21 adjacent to it, I barely noticed the small store with the simple LF sign lost in the midst of these huge stores.

Upon entering LF you would literally think you were entering a thrift shop. Clothes are strewn everywhere, upbeat music plays, and the workers pretty much leave you alone to sift through the piles of oversized sweaters, ridiculously high wedges, and leather bags.

Yet, there are a few clues that the “image” projected by the store does not exactly fit the reality at work here.

First? The security guard at the door. Second, one look at a price tag… almost everything, from tissue thin belly shirts to furry vests, are over $150. Third, the store still references its single sale a season (it already passed, by the way).

What’s going on here? Well, we know Walker would argue that Generation Y in fact embraces branding, and uses it as a means of expression. Further, he describes how marketers have now figured this out, and thus are finding new, unconventional, subtle, murky ways to capitalize on this.

Perhaps LF, like many other clothing and fashion stores, has capitalized on the hipster “subculture” that seems to be increasingly visible in our society. LF ditched the flashy, colorful, loud advertising of its neighboring competitors, settling with earth tones and messy clothing piles. LF can sell the edgy, throw-it-together look at the prices of a higher end designer. The LF website includes a link to “their favorite blogs” (which are of equally edgy nature) and claims, its for “girls who dare to be different.” It seems as if LF has successfully navigated the new world of murketing, targeting its consumers in underground ways and carefully walking the line between selling its products and maintaing an unassuming, cool and unique vibe that shies away from the mainstream.

My question to you is are LF’s consumers sell-outs? Or, as Walker would argue, are they just embracing branding in a new, less obvious way?

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Targeting Generation Y

In the old days, Television was the zeitgeist. Everyone watched it and there were only a few channels, so everyone pretty much watched the same thing. As such, the most effective marketing strategy was to appeal to the largest cross section of America as possible. Because of this, we got inelegant but widely appealing commercials like this, from Chevrolet.

The internet and cable TV has fragmented everything into niches. It’s ineffective to go after the whole apple pie these days. Now you have to go for the right slice. It is here that we see the marketing strategies of today. Enter the Toyota Free Yr Radio campaign. When Toyota designed the Yaris, their goal was to create a car that marketed directly to Generation Y. It had to have the DIY indie spirit and street cred that seems so pertinent to our generation’s psyche. So what did Toyota do? They launched a campaign in conjunction with Urban Outfitters (sounding hipper already, eh?) that partners with independent radio stations, providing them with funding and awareness. In addition, Toyota sponsored concerts with the radio stations that feature hip bands  such as Tokyo Police Club, Portugal the Man, Yeasayer, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.  The concerts are free of charge and on a first come, first serve basis.

Let’s break down that strategy. So Toyota sponsors radio stations marketed directly to their target demographic. The radio stations are basically obligated to mention Toyota all the time by proxy of the sponsorship. There is a built-in audience that is always listening. The audience is happy because Toyota is propping up radio stations that might otherwise go under. In addition, the radio stations generate buzz for the concerts which will surely sell out because they are free. Is there something we love more than free concerts? I don’t think so. What to know the final kicker? Toyota gave the radio stations free Yaris’s to give out to listeners during their buzz building events.

And that, my friends is Class A marketing for the new generation.

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