20 Jul Kanye: The Power Strategic Marketing
Oh, Kanye, Kanye, Kanye…
Some people think he’s the scum of the Earth. Others worship him.
Love him or hate him, however, we cannot ignore his marketing abilities, which he and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, excel at.
If you’ve ever doubted this man’s genius, please take the time to read.
So… not too long ago, I was riding down a main street in Nashville. I was passing all of the old thrift stores and all the new restaurants and apartments being built. I basically grew up on this side of Nashville, so I know this area very well. There is a wide demographic living in this area of Nashville if you ask me. And this area isn’t really a poor area, but it’s not really a Middle class area either. The point is, people are doing okay on this end of town. Could be better, but it’s okay.
So I’m driving, and I see a man walking up the road with one of those knapsack looking backpacks, which are in style right now. He’s also got on a rough looking plaid long-sleeved, collared shirt, also in style, and some khaki pants with some brand of skateboard shoe (couldn’t tell which brand, but the skateboard shoe is distinct, and is also trending right now, i.e. Vans). Now, I honestly don’t know how I came to this thought because as soon as I thought it, it really surprised me. But I start thinking, “I can’t tell if he purposefully chose that outfit today.”
Allow me to explain:
I could not decide if this man was being fashionable or if he just threw it on being the only clothes he had. Which one is the correct answer is not what I found interesting. I was instead fascinated with not being able to differentiate between the two. This man’s entire outfit could have easily been purchased at Urban Outfitters for over $350. Or he could have went to Good Will and purchased it for $8. This is where Kanye comes in.
Kanye has made it known that he has a vision in which his goal is to see everyone in America buying and wearing his clothes. At one point, he said he wanted to make these clothes available for anyone to purchase, rich or poor. I personally took this as him saying his clothes and shoes would be cheaper now that he had his own line and had more freedom at Adidas, after leaving Nike (his Nike Yeezy’s can go for over $1000 easily). I thought his new shoes and clothes would be affordable for everyone, so it’s no wonder that many people, myself included, were basically outraged when we saw these prices. I looked into buying a T-SHIRT which promotes his Pablo album. Thought it’d be around $30. Nope. These regular t-shirts are selling for $150-$180. Hearing him talk over and over again about how he wanted to change the fashion industry and take fashion to a whole new level and really make it more about equality at the same time was really cool to me. Then to see those prices? It made me feel like he was a sell-out. Like his claims for change and equality within the industry were all PR and promotion.
BUT today, I see what he did. Kanye West has been crucified via the internet for creating clothes that, according to social media, look like something a homeless person would wear. Everyone is deeming him crazy, and people are really mad at him for selling these clothes at such a high price when they’re all torn up, baggy, and plain. But isn’t that what all high-end brands do?
For example, I was in Nordstrom the other day. A plain white t-shirt was selling for $130. I looked at the material, and it was plain cotton. There was absolutely nothing special about it. It was simply a high-end brand. Kanye West has taken this concept of drastically overcharging people for this “homeless, impoverished” look, and people are now eating it up. People are now wearing his clothes and paying whatever the price is. And at the end of the day, they look just like the man walking down the street on a hot day who just got those clothes out of a donation clothes bin on the side of the road, but who could be extremely fashionable.
No, everyone isn’t wearing Kanye’s label, but they are all wearing his ideas and his trends. Kanye didn’t throw a huge logo on these clothes. There’s no big physical branding on them. Just great marketing. Unless I’m someone who looks closely at the details and knows my fashion all the way down to the stitching, I can’t tell who is being fashionable and who’s struggling to make ends meet. I don’t know who’s well-off or who’s broke. Kanye has done that. He has essentially made at least an aspect of upward mobility possible for anyone, which is extremely rare in our society today. He’s blurred the borders between classes, making it very difficult to group an individual wearing this fashion in their “appropriate” class. Whether I’m judging because I’m an a-hole who’s going to make fun of the person or because I just enjoy fashion no matter where the person got the clothing from, neither of the two really matter. I still can’t differentiate.
Kanye West has said that as a child, he and his mother struggled financially growing up. He’s preached that in school, all he ever wanted was a fresh outfit and some nice shoes. And even if you’re not a materialistic person, your appearance matters to someone. Someone is judging the way you look and what you’re wearing- your interviewer, your customer, your date, a potential lover, your parent, your professor, your boss, and so on. If you don’t care what anyone thinks, fine. But it will still affect you in one way or another. People will treat you differently based on their perceptions of you, and just because you’re apathetic to another person’s opinion of you does not change that fact. Kanye has now taken that power away from those judging. We hear how he talks about bullying being such a problem, and we’re all thinking, “Well, rapping and making clothes isn’t doing anything to help.”
But didn’t it?
He’s closed that gap between the victim being bullied for having dingy clothing and the bully. The bully can no longer decide if this person chose that outfit or not. And therefore, he’s, in a way, further complicated a little part of the free will debate. Did I choose this expensive piece of clothing, or was it my only option? I can now more easily make you think I am someone I may not be.
Maybe my t-shirt did cost $2, and maybe I am on the verge of being evicted from my home. But with confidence and my head held high, I can walk into a high-end clothing store, start a conversation, ask for an application, and get a job with that $2 t-shirt by acting like I CHOSE that t-shirt because I purchased it for $130, not because it’s the only thing I could afford. I can work hard at the job, make money to prevent my eviction, be promoted one day, move up the ranks within the company, and one day make a lot of money possibly working in the corporate office. This couldn’t be done before because it was not a trend before. If I’m a manager and I perceive a person wearing this to be someone who is fashionable and trendy, I’m more likely to hire them versus me perceiving this person to be dirty and broke and to only be doing this because this was their only choice.
THIS is why trends are so important.
This is what creativity and genius looks like.
This is what change looks like, and this is what Kanye has done. He has given people the option and the confidence to be able to say they’re following the trend if they want to. He has given people a loophole around that judging that affects us every day, whether we want to admit it or not. He has given people the ability to manipulate what choice really looks like. Capitalism creates a sense of never being enough because you don’t have the next big thing because you can’t afford it. Kanye has defeated that by, seemingly, making the next big thing something that broke people already had access to. This is what he has in common with Steve Jobs. He’s thought and dreamed big enough to change the entire way of things, not just this season’s trend. Now, wealthy people can throw away their money on these clothes, making Kanye richer, the wealthy snobbier, and the poor at least a little happier with a few more opportunities if used wisely.
He’s made being “poor” high-end and exclusive. This is what successful brand strategy can do. This is the power of well-planned marketing. Thanks for that, Kanye!
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