advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is Carhartt for real men or not?

I NEED TO KNOW. Carhartt’s an old brand. Like, Coke old. It’s also a Real Man™ brand. Durable clothes that last, made for American workers WHO DRIVE DODGE CHALLENGERS, rah! The stuff’s tough, I know. I have two work shirts that just won’t die, no matter what I do to them. It’s what the snowplow guy wears who does your company’s parking lot.

Except, not no more.

The cracks in the hull started when the rap community began wearing it, followed by bands in other genres. Apparently it’s now worn by guys sitting at home watching the same game that plowguys who laugh at them watch from their nosebleeds at Giants stadium.

This isn’t brandjacking either because it comes from the brand, not a movement outside it. (Ranger Rover, Timberlands, Dr. Martens were brandjacked.) Here, Carhartt is openly appealing to a crowd wanting to look like they cleaned up real good after a long day on the oil rig. That’s at odds with their real man demo who’ve been—excuse the blue collar pun—their bread and butter.

But part of a brand’s appeal is communal, something that only certain people wear or use. Mac freaks love Apple, and so on.

In Timberland’s case, they didn’t have to come up with a product line or advertising to go after a new demo. They just let it be adopted by whatever group happened to jump on it, then let them promote the brand indirectly through appearances in videos, shows, etc.

Same too with Range Rover when athletes and nu money jumped all over it to get theirs pimped on whatever car reality series was hot that week. Doc Marten’s? Was never meant to be the official gear of skinheads, but, shift happens and here we are.

Speaking of, footware has undergone a major shift too. Converse now appeals to sneaker freaks with literally any pop cultural style you could think of. Hello Batman. But it wasn’t always that way. For years, sneaker brands had their own identity: Keds were for wimps, Nike was for runners, Converse for hoops, and so on.

Those individual identities slash demos still exist, but many of these brands have morphed into something bigger by going lifestyle.

The brands have those discussion, make no mistake. The number one concern is whether they should cave and shift their ad message to reflect the new demo, or focus on their existing one(s) and ride the wave of the latest sales blip. Problem though is that *new* often means *next* because trends come and go.


I’m not saying ignore a possible new revenue stream, but let it come to you without alienating your existing base. That’s also said at the risk of me ignoring how Levi’s went from an Americana Western Cowboy narrative that built this country to merely walking across it, support van ever so close behind filming.

Is this where Carhartt ends up? The welding sparks burning the the arms of the guys wearing their clothes now replaced one day by sparklers in commercials talking about times like these.

When I see Carhartt go this route, it’s a little different that merely changing the advertising. The guys who buy the brand buy it for it’s durability; cost not so much because it’s the only company selling a line of true work clothes and outfits. Working families on a budget know what they need to buy needs to last.

Guys who need to call guys with plows, not so much.


Katie said...

Nor for nothin', Carhartt has been doing this for years... just not in the US market. Carhartt has been a fashionable brand in the UK for years, and it's entertaining to watch just how well they've effectively created 2 separate brands. They have the same name, but they each have dramatically different perceptions, positioning within the market, and even price points.

I'm interested to see how the US market reacts to this one, for sure.

MrBrownThumb said...

I have yet to see anyone wearing Carhartt as a fashion statement in Chicago. I was just bemoaning the fact that I'm 32 and would like clothes that don't make me look like I'm trying to cling to my 20s or look like a Jersey Shore knockoff. Maybe I'll see what Carhatt has to offer someone like me.

Although, the only people I see wearing Carharrt are bears (the gay ones, not the ones that play football) who wear the label to look like they are blue collar workers, or real-life blue collar workers. What will people wearing it for fashion do to the identities of these men? Will we have to check for dirty fingernails to identify the real men from the poseurs?

Funny you mentions Converse. After noticing this summer that they're the shoe brand of hipsters, I was reminded that in my youth if you wore Converse in my neighborhood you were either really poor or a gang banger.