Homogenizing humanity: How Urban Outfitters has successfully mass-branded being Indie

In his most recent Guest Post for 5 Blogs Before Lunch, Rocky McGredy takes a look at the marketing lure of hipster retailer Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters is a store that I can’t seem to avoid. Not only do I work within close proximity to an Urban Outfitters in downtown San Francisco, but I’d say a large percentage of my immediate peers own at least one article of clothing from Urban Outfitters. There’s no doubt that the place is hip, but I can’t help but have a natural aversion to what Urban Outfitters is doing to culture.

How is it that Urban Outfitters has exploded into popular culture so prominently? I mean, hipster culture is exploding all over the place already. Everything is quite explosive at the moment. The whole thing’s... explodey.

It’s clear that the way Urban Outfitters approaches its customers is very appealing to a big audience of folks like me. I mean, look Mom and Dad! You can take me to one store to get all of my school clothes, but you can also take me here to get my personality! The whole thing is undeniably... trendy.

The biggest problem I have with this strategy is how it seems to strip away individuality for the sake of mass marketing. I mean, I used to really have to search for the things that I was interested in. I developed obsessions over different media in my life. I would spend hours crawling the depths of the ether to find new music to listen to. I mean, I’ve ordered my clothing from a variety of websites and shopped in so many different retail stores for years; and now what Urban Outfitters is saying is that it’s cool to be me?

I’VE WORKED THESE HANDS RAW. It takes hard work to be this current. Or, well, at least it should.

Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe I’m delirious. Either way, there is just something that sickens me so much about this store--the way that they mail out a catalog by season, each one full of waifish twenty-something models wearing bizarre clothing. They gaze at you in a way that distinctly says, “we’re better than you.” Urban Outfitters means it.

They are better than you.

Urban Outfitters generated 1.8 billion in revenue in 2009. They just seem to keep sprouting up in different places, and slowly but surely they’re winning over my demographic. Seriously, they’re even winning me over.

Maybe I’m beginning to move past trying so hard to be an individual, or maybe Urban Outfitters just truly gets my generation. Either way, it seems like a better idea to buy something each time I go into an Urban Outfitters. You enter the store, and you’re immediately greeted by the welcoming colors and unique clothing displays. It has a very rustic woodsy feel; brown tones, log decorations, and the like. The place just feels so cool, every single thing you look at seems to whisper: “Buy me. It’s okay, you can afford it.” It’s the de-personification of an attractive salesperson winking at you and turning your heart, and your wallet, to jelly.

So, what’s the method behind it? Why do I feel this way?

First things first, Urban Outfitters delivers a unique experience to their customers. They’re a nice, off-beat brand who sells literally everything you could buy at several different stores. No need to hunt eBay for that vintage Lomo camera you’ve been looking for, UO stocks them regularly. No need to find those quirky gen-y coffee table books on Amazon, you can find them right by the menswear section. There’s literally no need to hunt for anything unique any longer. It’s all under one roof.

I call this act: homogenizing humanity. Urban Outfitters has successfully branded being indie. I guess it’s cool that people know what I’m talking about when I say “Lomography” or “Nietzsche”. Though, it is somewhat disappointing that niche culture is now being mass-produced.

Oh yeah, and curse them for having high quality goods and decent customer service as well. CURSE THEM!!!!!!

If you need me this afternoon, I’ll be checking out a Nixon Rubber Re-Run watch on Floor 3.


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