Social media may seem like a ubiquitous marketing device these days, but streetwear brands have already proven an innate understanding of how to navigate and leverage the digital space. How can a brand like Hood by Air charge $250 for a 100% cotton tee of average grade with a simple HBA graphic in the corner? How does Pyrex Vision get away with a price point of $25-50 for a single pair of socks? The power of social media. Streetwear companies have used this digital tool to build effective, long-term social media strategies that have catapulted them into the powerful arena of “lifestyle brand.”
Years before social media became a staple of every company brands like FUBU, Sean John and LRG were tapping into hip-hop culture by promoting themselves on platforms like MySpace and Concrete Loop. In the case of LRG, a timely nod from Kanye West, who wore the brand’s “Dead Serious” hoodie to a Stella McCartney show, catapulted the brand into streetwear infamy. The anatomically correct, glow in the dark skull hoodie has since surfaced everywhere from rap lyrics to on Grand Theft Auto IV characters. Similarly, A Bathing Ape’s collaboration with Pharrell led to the brand’s widespread popularity in the Asian market as it became synonymous with the American hip-hop scene.
The leading streetwear brands of today are carrying on in this same vein and using available social media outlets to push their brand identities and sell a lifestyle to consumers. From Hood by Air using A$AP Rocky and Boychild to close it’s a/w ’13 show, to Pyrex Vision utilizing the A$AP crew to showcase its “The Youth Always Win” collection, these brands know how to tap into pop culture newness for maximum appeal.
Unsurprisingly, this deep understanding of pop culture is also helping these brands create cutting edge trend. Labels are now pumping out video content, blog posts and creative collaborations, which simultaneously reflect and define what’s hip. To amplify the interaction, these influential companies have also created a relatable dialogue with their customer base. Pyrex creator Chicago-based Virgil Abloh, for instance, has a cult social media following both on Twitter and Tumbler, where he makes himself available and accessible by actively interacting with his followers.
In synch with this democratization of communication, streetwear brands also set an example for cultivating relationships with streetwear blogs and forums long before bloggers were considered cool. Dedicated snapback collectors, sneakerheads and streetwear connoisseurs are active within online communities that are defined as much by a lifestyle as the clothing to which it’s dedicated. Camping outside over the weekend to be first in line for the drop of an exclusive collaboration is just a part of life for those who love a brand. Interacting with these communities through social media and listening to what they want has been a proven formula for success with streetwear brands.
As the digital space continues to shift, it will become increasingly clear that marketing is more of a two-way conversation than traditional advertising used to be. To stay clued into how this relationship continues to evolve, we’re keeping an eye on the streetwear space.