Jason Goodman, Chief executive, Albion
If 'mass-market advertising' means giving up on your outsider spirit, using creative that nobody can find offensive, and lazily bought broadcast media, then yes. However, if it means using traditionally mainstream media like TV, then no. These days we've learned from the internet and use TV in highly targeted ways to reach narrow attitudinal audiences effectively.
What could be more counter-culture and rebellious than taking a big broadcast TV spot (think The X Factor final or the Super Bowl) and then using it to run highly polarising creative that catapults the brand into the mass-market consciousness, but doesn't try to win a popularity contest? That then stimulates the debate in social media.
Plus, Generation Y doesn't have the tribal affiliations previous generations did. Instead they use a bricolage of products and brands to construct their own unique identity. So a brand like Dr Martens no longer has a narrow stereotype audience, but is used by kids across the 'mass market' to make their own individual statement.
Martin Buckley, Head of planning, glue Isobar
The true challenge is defining the essence itself, not the use of mass advertising per se. Done poorly, the brand misinterprets its value in consumer life and mass advertising leads to mass dilution. Done well, the brand can transcend any one sub-culture, trend or generation and mass advertising adds new meaning to a rich brand story. The Adidas 'All in' campaign is a great example of this.
Invention, self-confidence and authenticity define the Dr Martens brand in my mind. These facets emanate from the founders themselves, and were well established before punk came along to kick the establishment in the balls. Punk clearly fused 'rebellion' into the brand, but that's not a bad mantra for a brand to have in a digital age. The brand isn't in control anyway, so all it can do is stay true to itself.
At its heart, Dr Martens now has a powerful vocabulary with which to engage a mass audience. Unless the strategist had a very bad day in the office, investing in the essence of this great brand feels like an open goal.
John Morris, Managing director, Design Bridge
How do we define a sub-culture brand? From the moment that Dr Martens was embraced as a counter-culture staple in the 60s, it has remained a symbol of being different; one that resounds with young people the world over.
DMs are now readily available in a broad selection of styles, materials and colours, offering consumers a choice for how 'different' they want to be. So, what makes it a sub-culture brand?
By focusing on creativity, music, fashion and self-expression, is Dr Martens doing anything different from any number of other 'sub-culture' brands from spirits to trainers? Will using traditional media undermine the standing that the brand has in 'youth' culture? No - the fundamental issue is not about counter-culture, sub-culture or mainstream culture; it's about the message at the heart of the brand and keeping that consistent and true.
The brand is about helping people to express themselves - young, old, edgy or straight-laced. Diluting this message, rather than the media, is what would damage the essence of Dr Martens.
Michelle Clothier, Co-founder and joint managing director, Livity
It's far from a given that a mass-market campaign will damage a brand that has enjoyed counter-culture associations for years. Dr Martens didn't set out to be 'a sub-culture brand', more 'a comfy shoe' - not exactly subversive.
Yes, various sub-cultures have adopted DMs as part of their 'uniform' and, while this might be viewed as a gift from the brand gods, it's not necessarily the result of a purposeful strategy to infiltrate the nation's sub-cultures.
In fact, while the brand's links to an array of groups, from skins to goths, has helped create a colourful heritage and cool brand stories, the boots have also been worn consistently over the decades by police officers, posties and politicians. Pretty mainstream.
Any loved or trusted brand risks damaging its essence if it chooses to turn its back on the values or positioning that helped shape its success. However, it doesn't sound like that's what Dr Martens is setting out to do.
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