The Dark Arts of Marketing - Goth & Advertising
High-street footwear retailer Schuh is celebrating its thirtieth birthday this year, and are launching their biggest campaign yet to celebrate ‘thirty years of self-expression’, which includes the rise and so-called “golden age” of Goth in the eighties. Accordingly so, their promotional video covers the contemporary youth subcultures of the day such as R&B and hipster, before ending with some fresh-faced, dark-glad Goths dancing in a suitably subterranean setting, all Siouxsie t-shirts and shiny boots. According to Schuh, the strategy “celebrates all aspects of youth culture from 1981 to the present day - everything from the iconic music to the hair do’s (and don’ts!)”
On the topic of the musical angle, Schuh are proud to announce the addition of Porl King (ex-Rosetta Stone) and his new musical project, miserylab, who provide the soundtrack in the form of an instrumental of ‘Children of the Poor’. You can watch the video here.
Schuh joins the small but select field of retailers who’ve borrowed from Goth to promote their wares. How can anyone forget the skin-crawling Irn Bru adverts? Or Paul Whitehouse’s idiosyncratic and stereotypical nonsense for Aviva? Credit the Americans, at least they don’t handle it so clumsily. Have Schuh excelled in the field, and done the scene a service? We’d like to hear from you…
In the meantime, we caught up via e-mail with Sara Metcalfe, Design and Visual Merchandising Manager for Schuh to ask her about the campaign, and where the Goth scene crossed over with it.
TBG: I notice you cover several youth cultures such as the indie crowd, the retro/vintage hipster mob, what motivated the decision to include Goths?
SM: In [previous campaigns] we featured 2 tone, Manchester rave scene, girl power and grunge, and in this…campaign we chose Ska, Hip-hop/break dance, hipster and goth. We tried to choose iconic genres that had strong styling and musical references that would be instantly recognisable and translate visually very strongly. Also my own background as a goth in the late 80’s influenced the inclusion of this genre!!!
TBG: Don’t they represent a youth culture from - as you mentioned - previous decades, that lacks social presence?
SM: I think goths and the culture associated with them such as witchcraft and vampires come up routinely in society as films, TV shows, books etc become popular featuring these themes. Different youth cultures rotate in and out of fashion and public awareness as fashion and culture trends change…
TBG: Do you think they’re marginalized in the eyes of other retailers like Schuh, who operate in the fields of cutting edge style and fashion?
SM: Current styles and street style change over time and often feature interpretations of previous trends and youth cultures. I don’t necessarily think Goth’s are marginalised by retailers, it just depends whether their preferred style is being referenced in current fashion trends as to whether their style will be promoted.
We were also curious about the involvement of Porl King of miserylab, formerly of Rosetta Stone and a familiar name to an entire generation of Goths from the nineties - although miserylab represents a move in a more socially critical, 21st century direction, and Porl’s relationship with the contemporary Goth scene is complex. We were very lucky to converse with Porl over e-mail and hear from him about his involvement with Schuh’s campaign.
TBG: How did you end up getting involved with Schuh’s advert campaign? How did they describe it to you, and what was it that attracted you?
PK: it was by pure chance, my friend david had mentioned the track on a number of occasions whilst in the company of sara who works for schuh - it so happened that she was involved in the ‘30 years of self expression campaign’ and knew that the production company creating the advertisement needed tracks including something to represent the goth movement …
Initially - I wasn’t sure what I thought of the idea. I knew it would be great from a promotional perspective, but was concerned it would trivialise the politics of miserylab - if this had been an ad for washing powder, then I wouldn’t have considered it.
Technically this isn’t selling a particular product - and the use of my music is to represent a genre to which I’ve been connected to for decades …
TBG: How do you see your position, and the position of miserylab, relating to the contemporary Goth scene?
PK: I don’t know whether miserylab is a goth band or not. If the general view is that I am, then fine. I’m not particularly bothered either way - it certainly won’t influence what I do …
I really don’t connect with the UK goth scene. I think I take music too seriously, I shudder at the stylising, I don’t shop at goths shops, I don’t like any of the bands - and the whole thing from an ‘event’ perspective seems more like a convention of like minded people - as opposed to a ‘musical movement’ .. world goth day - and the smiley logo - I just don’t ‘feel’ the music in that way.
I’m quite happy to accept I’m the one who’s got it wrong - that it’s my perspective that is at fault, but it feels quite ‘pretend’ to me. Great musicians maybe - but mediocre songs .. and all really just an excuse to try and perpetuate something that many enjoyed in their youth …
TBG: Can you tell us what made you use Children of the Poor for this project?
PK: As I said, sara had heard a lot about the track - and it seemed a safe bet to me that of all my tracks it was most likely to do the job. The option was there for me to submit a different track had I wanted to…
TBG: Finally, if people were to criticise you for using your music in a corporate marketing project, how would you respond?
PK: I’d give them the middle finger …
In an advertising campaign with contributions from those very familiar with the scene, it would seem the proper conventions have been observed, and it certainly lacks the mocking of previous attempts within the UK to combine Goth and Marketing.
We’re very grateful to Sara and Porl for taking the time out to discuss the campaign with us, and we’re keen to hear your feedback - reach us here.
Until next time…!
The Third Installment of Crosswave
is tonight, starts at 10pm, first floor, Bar Room Bar. I hope you can make it.
Give it a try - we are!
“Hug a Goth” Day - August 24th
Over 40,000 people have signed up to a Facebook event encouraging them to Hug a Goth today. Twitter has naturally taken to it with its usual mix of heartfelt support and wry commentary, but there is a much more sombre reason for this pre-planned expression of affection.
Four years ago today, Sophie Lancaster - a 20-year-old resident of Bacup, Lancashire - and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, were assaulted by a drunken gang in a local park. Maltby later recovered, but Lancaster died after two weeks in a coma. Two youths, aged 15 and 16, were later convicted on murder and assault charges, with witnesses confirming suspicions that the couple were attacked due to their Goth appearance.
Goth culture recoiled in shock - appearance-motivated violence isn’t common, and this level of savagery horrified everyone. Sophie’s mother, and many other people from the Lancaster’s family, friends, and across the Goth scene rallied together to found the S.O.P.H.I.E Foundation, to honour Miss Lancaster’s memory, and to try and discourage the animosity that was let loose in that park in 2007.
One of their objectives is to raise official awareness of the danger to subcultural groups, and tonight at 8pm BBC Radio 4 will be holding a live radio debate, including Sylvia Lancaster discussing the murder, and the wider considerations of ‘hate crimes’, so-called ‘No-Go Areas’ in Britain’s cities and the responses necessary to prevent further tragedies.
So, behind this light-hearted public affection is a grimmer tale of discrimination, the dangers of standing out, and a combination of mourning and resolve to prevent it happening ever again. Perhaps hugging complete strangers dressed all in black who radiate a field of “don’t come near me” is a tall order, but if you get the chance - show them some tolerance, maybe even friendliness, or ask questions if you’re curious. I love explaining my cultural choices to people, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have launched The Blogging Goth.
Don’t jump to a negative conclusion, give the scary-looking people in the supermarket queue or waiting on the train station a chance - you’ll find them pleasantly surprised, and perfectly polite. Imagine how it feels, when everyone who is dressed ‘normally’ could be as scary as Goths are perceived - and who might even decide to resort to violence…
The Blogging Goth Introduction
Welcome to The Blogging Goth. Let me start by establishing what this isn’t.
This isn’t a ‘zine - there are many good ones I can recommend, who do a fantastic job reviewing and circulating the latest music breaking through in the scene…and these are far from the only ones.
This isn’t a personal blog. It’s written by one person at the moment, but I’m encouraging submissions from contributors who agree to adhere to our strictly objective and unbiased policy, who want to write clear-cut news updates from within the Goth subculture, or supply balanced opinion pieces on events.
This isn’t a medium which will take sides in a subcultural debate, wage vendettas or cast aspersions.
The Blogging Goth is here to combine clear-eyed Journalism with the intricacies of one of the world’s oldest musical and social counter-culture movements. The Blogging Goth will report the news being generated within the Goth scene, as well as providing a contact for media enquiries into the Gothic culture.
Currently, The Blogging Goth is Tim Sinister. I’m a Second Year student of Journalism at Leeds Trinity University, I also produce and present a Uni radio show called Dark Arches, and sing in a Sisters covers band called The Marching Men. I’ve been into the Goth subculture for a decade now, and despite my parents early hopes, still show no signs of ‘growing out of it’.
On top of all this, I’ve been considering launching a blog like TBG for a while now, both to provide an unbiased news outlet for the Goth scene, and to present a unified, measured and sensible media presence when Goth seeps into the mainstream press - usually at a time when careful discussion of the facts is called for. To combine my journalistic skills with my passion for the culture I’m a happy member of seemed a natural result.
The next major Goth event will be InFest 2011 in Bradford, from 26th-28th August. The Blogging Goth hopes to be there, and you’ll be able to follow our tweets @theblogginggoth as well as regular updates here. If you want to contribute to The Blogging Goth, we’d love to hear from you via e-mail with ideas. If you see The Blogging Goth about, feel free to stop and chat about anything you’re happy to see blogged.
That goes for all our readers - we’re here to cover the issues that concern Goths, so please send us your suggestions for the topics we need to cover for the benefit of the entire scene. Thanks for your time!