Back in the 1960s it was easy to tap into a ‘counterculture’ because it was everywhere. There was an explosion of happenings that were tearing down mainstream, establishment institutions. It was rock music, the drug scene, or just living like a hippy – wearing tie-dye shirts, bell bottom jeans, long hair, flowers-in-hair and love beads.
But today in our seemingly sterile wealth-driven society just identifying a movement that might be “counterculture” is not so easy. Sure, one can get some tattoos – but just about everyone has “ink” nowadays, even grandmas and grandpas.
If you think music can make your counterculture statement, well, think aain. Music today is more about tribalism than social upheaval. You’re either into hip-hop or country, boy bands or what’s left of the guitar-driven rock. But a particular genre of music is no longer a social movement,or goes far in making a special statement.
Amazingly, the only sources that seem to be generating true counterculture movements today are the last entities you would expect to be doing so – profit-generating business models that are looking for new ways to promote their brands with norm-bending ideas.
A case in point is the snowboard manufacturer, Burton Snowboards. This company raised awareness of its brand by creating a kind of counterculture movement called “Sabotaging Stupid.” The purpose of this movement was to get snowboard enthusiasts everywhere to crash ski resorts that still holding out against allowing snowboards on their slopes.
The company offered cold hard cash — $5,000 – to the snowboarders who could make the best video of their attempt to invade some snooty ski resort. The idea caught on. A virtual counterculture of snowboarding activity arose. The counterculture identity formed around the common subversive goal of defiling traditional ski slopes with gnarly snowboarding grooves.
Another example was an idea from a major brand, Ralph Loren. Stores started selling off-brand antique watches not designed by Loren. The idea paid off big for Ralph Loren because the exotic watch selection gave their locations a certain steam punk vibe that carried an aura of counter culture rebellion.
So if you notice a cool trend that smacks of an organic underground movement driven by counterculture types – it may be just another clever marketing ploy brought to you courtesy of an established corporate brand.