Brand hijacking
June 24, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

What are some cases of upmarket brands becoming involuntarily associated with 'undesirable' groups? The main one that comes to mind is chavs in the UK adopting Burberry check as 'theirs' (see I also remember hearing that the makers of Cristal champagne were unhappy about its popularity with rappers. Any other ideas? Thank you.
posted by MisterCoffeeWithAnAutomaticDrip to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Smirnoff Ice vs. Bros Icing Bros. Smirnoff actually shut down their website.
posted by doorsfan at 3:11 PM on June 24, 2010

There's a long-running and false urban legend that Tommy Hilfiger was unhappy with his brand's popularity in the black community.
posted by sallybrown at 3:13 PM on June 24, 2010

Stella Artois tried to come over as fancy and "reassuringly expensive" and then ended up nicknamed "Wifebeater" in the UK...
posted by merocet at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2010

A lot of the high end handbags - Louis Vuitton and Prada especially - have more or less lost their prestige thanks to counterfeiting.
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2010

The unshakeable association between luxury car brands and footballers (Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, Ferrari, etc.) is a double-edged sword for the manufacturers. On the one hand, these people really do buy cars, and lots of them. On the other, the average highly-paid footballer is not entirely consistent with the sophisticated image and marketing message the companies are trying to project.
posted by jonathanbell at 3:25 PM on June 24, 2010

Timberland, a US shoe and sportswear manufacturer almost went out of business because they were ignoring (or actively trying to end) the uptake of the brand by young hip-hop youths.
posted by zpousman at 3:27 PM on June 24, 2010

Another one just came to mind - Tiffany's at one point had relatively cheap charm bracelets and necklaces that teenyboppers flocked to, and in turn drove away their traditional high rolling customers.
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not an answer but I could have sworn someone asked almost the exact same question last week on the green. Unfortunately I can not find the thread.
posted by travis08 at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder what PBR thinks about all the hipsters and fixie cyclists drinking their beer.
posted by twblalock at 3:41 PM on June 24, 2010

Response by poster: travis08 - I searched before posting but didn't find anything. Stuff like Tiffany's is exactly what I am looking for, thanks! Also footballers and cars in a good one.
posted by MisterCoffeeWithAnAutomaticDrip at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2010

Back in the '80's all the girls wearing doorknocker earrings on the city bus in Detroit were totally Gucci'd out. The yellow-red-green stripe was ubiquitous. I had just moved back there from NYC, so it really struck me as funny/odd.
posted by kidelo at 3:46 PM on June 24, 2010

This is the previous question. Similar, but it is specifically about celebrities, not broad social groups.

I wonder what PBR thinks about all the hipsters and fixie cyclists drinking their beer.
That's the exact opposite- a downmarket brand adopted by relatively well-off people. I have to imagine they're happy to be selling beer.

posted by drjimmy11 at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the early 90s, the popular clothing company Troop was rumored to be owned by the KKK. They went out of business a few years later.
posted by rhizome at 4:03 PM on June 24, 2010

faygo / ICP
posted by nihlton at 4:06 PM on June 24, 2010

I don't know if it fits, but there's always Hugo Boss and the SS uniforms.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:48 PM on June 24, 2010

I noticed that it has happened with car makers a lot. (In the US anyway) There was a time when Jaguars and Mercedes and BMWs were high end, desirable goods. Then, in an attempt to cash in on that, the makers came out with cheaper versions that looked like their brand, but didn't have any of the fancy stuff and/or reliability that the good ones did. So instead of maintaining a reputation of high-end, they are just some automaker.

A side-phenomenon is "things" rather than brands. Cell phones are invented, they are expensive and look cool. Then people buy them for the "look cool factor" instead of the necessity, and suddenly walking around with a cell phone hanging off your ear is seen as trying to show off. Bluetooth earpieces are doing that right now.
posted by gjc at 4:56 PM on June 24, 2010

A lot of the high end handbags - Louis Vuitton and Prada especially - have more or less lost their prestige thanks to counterfeiting.

True. It's likely more difficult for Vuitton to find consumers willing to buy $1,200 duffel bags now that much of the "Vuitton" you're bound to see in any major city is fake--or will be assumed so. The cachet of owning an authentic, high quality item, and thus the value of the Vuitton brand, is put at risk by cheap plastic fanny packs and cigarette cases and diaper bags from China because, basically, what Vuitton (Burburry, Gucci, et. al) is selling is exclusivity.

This is an interesting question that touches on some of the more psychological aspects of trademark law, and what it means for consumers to come to associate a brand (e.g. familiar tradedress like the Burburry Nova checks, the LV monogram, the Gucci stripes, the Polo horseman, etc.) with this desirable, and amorphous, exclusivity.

Back to the OP's question. Cadillac, in the U.S., is arguably another high end brand that underwent a change from the 1950's and 1960's--when Cadillac cars symbolized conservative and very "establishment" wealth and success--to the late 1960's, 1970's and beyond, when used Cadillacs had become more plentiful and allowed the brand's market to expand to less wealthy people, as well as to hot-rodders, low-riders, and other decidedly less conservative, less affluent consumers.
posted by applemeat at 5:03 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that the majority of high-end brands eventually trickle down? In Freakonomics, they talk about how names start out chi-chi then become trashy. Brittany and Tiffany used to be high-class names, but now they are very popular with all income-levels. Madison clearly was a "rich girl" name but gained overall popularity.
posted by radioamy at 5:15 PM on June 24, 2010

twblalock: they're thrilled.
posted by box at 5:15 PM on June 24, 2010

Since no-one else has written it out yet specifically, I'll mention the phrase prole drift.
posted by gimonca at 5:32 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that Coach also falls into the designer handbag category along with LV and Prada. Their smaller bags and wristlets became really popular with teenagers, and they're widely counterfeited. Seems like their image has been cheapened, and they're more cheesy and seen as trying to be upscale, instead of a longtime producer of fine leather goods.

I'd venture to say that LV and Coach both hurt themselves by creating logo bags, like these seen here.

Interesting... maybe I'll do some research and try to expand on that.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:35 PM on June 24, 2010

I wonder what PBR thinks about all the hipsters and fixie cyclists drinking their beer. PBR loves anyone who buys their beer. Period.

Hamm's wishes it had that market, whaddya mean you never heard of Hamm's?

But you're talking about "high end" stuff.

There is no such thing.
posted by Max Power at 5:53 PM on June 24, 2010

In Germany the clothing manufacturer Lonsdale is closely associated with neo-nazi groups. They are supposed to like the brand because loNSDAle almost spells out NSDAP (NationalSozialistische Deutsche ArbeiterPartei- German national socialist workers party).
posted by mmkhd at 6:17 PM on June 24, 2010

This isn't about appropriation, but this FPP, and its thread's comments, do go into the cheapening of 'luxury' brands.
posted by mhz at 6:33 PM on June 24, 2010

Somewhat related, a discussion of the term "chav".
posted by Red Loop at 7:45 PM on June 24, 2010

Would Procter & Gamble's mythical association with devil-worship qualify?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2010

There has always bee na strong link between the Football Casual (linked to soccer hooliganism) and some high end brands. This is where the Burberry association started.
posted by tallus at 10:13 PM on June 24, 2010

Prior to WW II Harley-Davidsons were a fairly up-market motorcycle; afterward the availabilty of cheap used military bikes and their adoption by the new biker culture created the association between bikers and Harleys that endures to this day. That led to the lean years of the seventies when almost no one but bikers and police departments bought Harleys (Honda played on this association about that time with their slogan "You meet the nicest people on a Honda"). That was when the company was bought by AMF, and quality suffered severely as motorcycles were not AMF's main buisiness. After the company was bought back from AMF in 1981 quality improved and eventually things came full circle in the late 80's-early 90's as wealthy middle aged men began to play biker on weekends and Harleys became desireable once again.
posted by TedW at 5:32 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the UK, the Bentley Continental was considered the premiership footballer's drive of choice. Bentley's new Arnage is one part of a move away from that.

Similarly, BMW 3 series acquired a reputation for being driven by idiots, which coincided with the sales growth of the Audi A4.

Mercedes, on the other hand, suffered not because of its owners, but because at the time of the Chrysler merger it went on a cost-cutting spree and reliability plummeted.

In clothing, see Von Dutch and Juicy Couture as good examples of chavicization, which very quickly went from "hipster" to "avoid at all costs."
posted by MuffinMan at 5:50 AM on June 25, 2010

BMW 3 series acquired a reputation for being driven by idiots

hey! I resemble this remark.

Anyway, this article might be interesting: Branding in Pop Culture: How Brands Avoid Negative Associations
posted by desjardins at 12:54 PM on June 25, 2010

I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but I'm older and remember the Ben Sherman brand being taken up by English skinheads in the post-punk days - to the point where i don't think you saw anyone else wearing it...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:00 PM on June 25, 2010

Schwing is a maker of concrete pump trucks. I don't know if they are upmarket, or if Wayne and Garth are an undesirable group, but I know it amused me the first time I saw a Schwing truck
posted by Bruce H. at 7:01 PM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, some great answers.
posted by MisterCoffeeWithAnAutomaticDrip at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2010

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