“Los Punks” and a lesson on lifestyle marketing from Vans

By September 19, 2016 No Comments

“Los Punks” is a new documentary which documents the LA backyard punk scene. It’s an incredibly inspiring, if sometimes sad, look at a scene that rarely gets any attention from outsiders– a lot of poor, largely Latino kids who grew up in fucked up circumstances and built their scene out of what basically amounts to scraps.

It really struck a chord with me because I spent a lot of my teens and early 20s in shows like these (not in LA, but other equally depressing parts of the country) and I really relate to these kids. They may not always know what the right path is, but they’re doing the best with what they have just like I was at that time in my life.

Watching this really made me wish I could take some of these kids under my wing and give them a little direction, because I don’t think they understand what they’re capable of– if you can make a DIY punk show happen despite pressure from cops, gangs and the fuckups at the show itself, you are a special person who is capable of just about anything. I’m not suggesting that my lifestyle is right for everyone, but I do wish I could sit down with some of these kids and maybe show them a few possible paths for them to harness this energy into a way out of the hood.

The film is on Netflix and I highly suggest giving it a look.


In addition to being a really good film, I think it’s also a great piece of marketing– and it’s no surprise that it comes from Vans, who are one of the best of all time at lifestyle marketing. The chart above is my framework for how great companies like Vans use lifestyle marketing.

For any company bigger than a tiny boutique brand, the goal always has to be getting to mass, consumer markets– Zumiez, Pac Sun, etc. And the way you get there is by following this time-tested blueprint:

On the bottom left we have the Pros— athletes, bands, artists, and so forth. These people are too small to be a meaningful market, but it’s critical that a brand has their approval. While sponsorships and other activations are an important part of this part, it’s not as simple as just throwing cash at it – if you follow the UFC, Reebok’s spectacular failure at getting any traction in the MMA market shows that the most important ingredient here is showing the pros that you understand and respect what they do.

Pros influence the people in the middle, the Tastemakers & Opinion Leaders who in turn drive the tastes of the mass consumers. IMO this group is the lynchpin of lifestyle marketing, and in many ways the hardest nut to crack. Unlike pros, it’s tough to reach these people directly; you can’t sponsor them or put them on your flow team. This is where things like “Los Punks” and the Revelation x Adidas collab come into play– activations that show the tastemakers that your brand is truly a part of the community.

And finally, if you’ve done your work properly in the first two steps then you get to the payoff– you reach Mass. Your shit is on the shelves of mall stores, and kids who have no idea what a backyard show or CBGB’s is are buying your shoes. By now you’ll also be getting some backlash from the Pros and Tastemakers because you’re too big/sold out, and so the challenge here is a balancing act between keeping them relatively happy while still growing your brand. This is a very hard line to dance around, and few do it better than Vans.

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