Subcultures: The New Mainstream

January 30, 2023

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By Alex Blasser, Vice President, Director of Digital & Cassandra Orion, Vice President, Director of Youth Culture 

Subcultures Dominate Newsfeeds  

The newsfeed has evolved. From what appears and the sources behind content, the stories increasingly served up have become significantly more diverse over the past few years. TikTok and Reddit have played a huge role in connecting micro communities, and we’ve all witnessed how groups of people small and large have successfully influenced the trend cycle – creating and accelerating many microtrends emerging from a variety of sources. TikTok’s rise as an important home for micro communities has roots in the internet’s long history with subcultures – a path paved by forum-like platforms like Reddit. Folks on the frays of society have always found solace on the internet, but within the last decade, these groups have grown at an unprecedented rate. Subcultures are no longer a subset of mainstream culture – they increasingly ARE mainstream culture.  

What to Expect 

This year, brands focused on resonating with these interest-based groups will have a competitive advantage. 

The importance of online communities is hard to overemphasize for brands. These groups (micro or not) often supplement the role of physical communities as our world changes. Micro communities often have specific values, trends, and important voices – helping to shape who we are, our identities, and eventually – what we buy into and what we don’t. In 2023, we expect interest-based communities to be an increasingly important aspect of consumer identity, reshaping how we think of diversity into something with more intersectionality. Subcultures are quickly becoming a large untapped opportunity for brands to develop and strengthen affinity with their audiences. Brands should plan to invest more time and effort to understand subcultures that are shaping trends and the mindsets of their audiences. A great first place to start looking is Reddit and their community of communities based on niche subject matter.

How Brands Can Win 

There has never been a “one size fits all” formula for how brands should approach diversity, and now brands have the added challenge of approaching subcultures and their perspective audiences. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this year:  

  • Authenticity or nothing. Brands tapping into sub-cultures need to do it in a way that is seen as authentic and not just opportunistic.  
  • Connection not imitation. Look to develop a true connection that is rooted in authentic intentions. To do that, brands really need to dig deep into a subculture’s values, voices, and trends. 
  • Minimize perpetuating stereotypes. Demonstrate the value of diverse consumers and their subcultures to your brand by not emphasizing stereotypes.  
  • Quality over quantity. It’s not about being everywhere, it’s about being in the right places and being present within the right subcultures that are an authentic match for your brand. 

Why it Matters 

Time and time again, we’ve seen mainstream trends start within subcultures. In 2023, the influence that subcultures have on mainstream trends – and the amount of space they command in our social newsfeeds – will continue to grow. And the impact of subcultures is now global, so understanding how they influence trends in one part of the world can help marketers predict what’s next elsewhere. Those who identify the subcultures that are already important to their audiences and can find authentic ways to contribute to or further shape these important communities will win.   

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