Marketing to Ridiculed Groups
By Tom Ryan
People who fall into groups such as yuppies, metrosexuals,
urban gangstas and hipsters regularly deny they are members of the often-mocked
groups. For marketers, the problem is that they also deny being consumers of
products associated with those classifications — even though they are.
A study, to be published in the February 2011 edition of the Journal
of Consumer Research, entitled Demythologizing Consumption Practices:
How Consumers Protect Their Field-Dependent Identity Investments from Devaluing
Marketplace Myths, explores these challenges. The study claims that prior
research has concluded that many consumers abandon consumption practices once
their associated meanings are no longer positive, but the authors believe this
may be an oversimplification. Instead, they found that consumers are able
to “demythologize” their
consumption practices to distance themselves from unfavorable labels.
“Individuals don’t easily drop practices that they’ve cultivated for
years just to avoid being labeled,” study co-author Zeynep Arsel, an assistant
professor of marketing at Concordia University in Montreal, told The Montreal
Gazette. “They’d rather find ways to show how they’re different
from the people who might engage in these practices ‘for the wrong reasons.'”
study particularly investigated the category of “hipster,” which
has gained attention from the mass media in recent years.
“This iconic category has evolved from its countercultural roots, originally
aligned with beat sensibilities, to a trend-seeking über-consumer of the
2000s,” the authors wrote in a statement. With the hipster label becoming
a trivializing label for indie consumption practices, the study found that
nearly all the survey participants — primarily DJs, music critics, fashion
students and aspiring writers — were perturbed at being mistaken for,
or accused of being “hipsters.” At the same time, they largely found
creative ways to remain loyal to many of the group’s core buying habits and
“Our findings suggest how backlash against identity categories such as
hipster or metrosexual could generate complex and nuanced identity strategies
that enable consumers to retain their tastes and interests while protecting
these tastes from trivializing mythologies,” the authors concluded.
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that there are challenges in marketing
to people labeled as yuppies, metrosexuals, urban gangstas
and hipsters? How should marketing messages be handled for these consumers?
- Who Are You Calling ‘Hipster’? Consumers Defy Labels and Stereotypes – Science
- Study uses “hipsters” to explore when cool becomes clichéd – The
- Study Says, You Can’t Keep the Hipster Down – Elle