I'm going to see "The Damned" in concert tonight - the original punk band that apparently had their lime light stolen by The Sex Pistols. I can't profess to hold an opinion on any of this as it was all way before my time but either way I'm off to re-live a youth I never had.
Thing is, as a teenager, growing up in the '60s, '70s or '80s gave you all sorts of groups you could subscribe to with pride - whether you were a mod, a rocker, a punk, a yuppie, disco or goth there were large groups of people similar to you that stood out from the norm and shaped your decade. The brand of every group was clear, for example, the punk stood for anarchy, rebellion and a freedom of spirit and whether or not you were a part of that group you knew the group values and had some level of respect (certainly with hindsight) for what they were doing.
Ever since the mid '90s all this has begun to fade. The half hearted attempt that was "grunge" stood for nothing in particular that I can remember and that was very much my era. You could be led to thinking the brands of youth culture and well and truly dead...
Bollocks. It isn't - or at least I think it isn't. It's just been dragged through the Long Tail Process along with everything else we ever held dear...and it's fantastic. Take a virtual stroll through MySpace, Bebo and the endless others and there are now millions of brands influcencing youth...they are their own. Web 2.0 has given young people the opportunity to create their own brand, to control the pictures, fashion, music and words that they want to be associated with. They no longer have to make do with the brand that "best fits" them because they create their own that is 100% right for them.
They directly network with the people they want to influence, with abrand they create and protect with as much ferocity as any FMCG Brand Manager. Don't believe me? We all do it... When was the last time you uploaded a picture of yourself on Facebook that made you look ugly,dull or stupid? Or changed your status to say "___ is insecure and desperate for your approval"? You just don't - you filter out the rubbish and make sure that the one time this month you did anything of any interest you put it on that profile page quick smart.
Fantastic - the only issue it raises is that we are on the cusp of a new consumer. No wonder brand marketing is a dying art - why would we now align ourselves to a poorly fitting product from a poorly fitting brand when a higher level of personalisation is ever present? I don't want a BMW that puts me in the old fashioned "BMW driver" category...I don't want to match myself to a car brand, I want a car brand that matches my brand.
Brands in business, unlike natural brands, haven't caught up yet - they are one of the last remaining areas of business that have not gone through the long tail yet. Maybe the invention of sub brands by some of the bigger brands shows a slow recognition - choose Tesco's, then choose Finest or Value...but it's a tiny step on the road. Response marketing and products have all adapted in response to the "evolve or die" concept...brand marketing is now faced with the same ugly choice.