I remember Hush Puppies from when I was in University in the 1980’s. They were ugly as sin and we all wore them. Then Hush Puppies just went Hush. All of a sudden when not a Pup was in sight, a group of trendies in Manhattan, bumming around the Village, rediscovered them and before long, without any work at all on the part of the owners of Pup, they were the rage of fashionistas everywhere. The resurrection of the Pup became a phenomenon that has been studied since and dubbed viral marketing.
But before Hush Puppies, there were (get ready for a blast from the past…) Clarks Wallabees. Wallabees.
Brown and Black. Oxfords.
Brown and Camel. Treks.
Also ugly as sin, but if you were in Grade 8, in 1971, if you didn’t own a pair of Wallabees, you just weren’t. (Treks were cooler.)
Like Hush Puppies, there was no marketing involved. Clarks were the shoes of our parents stylings…not ours! But combined with Howick’s and Wranglers and Lee hip huggers, Clark’s (and oh, please, don’t make me revisit Frye boots again in 2006! And don’t get me started on the Australian oilskin duster that got us all in a tizzy after the insanely popular Crocodile Dundee in the ’80’s….been there, done that..) were the uniform of 8th and 9th graders on the East Coast. I’m a proud Montrealer (now living in LA and an equally proud US citizen) but Montreal did have style. So if Clark’s were it in Montreal, then they were just it…everywhere. We had our thing. That was pre-internet, pre-computer (!) viral marketing at its best. From Coke’s “Teach the World to Sing…” campaign to “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too…” the theme got us hooked, but we made or broke the trends, regardless of the advertising dollars being spent to reel us in.
Fast forward to 2005 and the flash viral spin that MySpace.com evolved into in under a year and it is clear that, still, the youth of North America create their trends without advertisers forcing it upon them. For those who are unaware, MySpace started as an online hangout to share small band, indie band music online and quickly evolved into the place to be if you were in your twenties in cyberspace. Surpassing site hits of ALL other sites (including Google) and gaining a membership of over 35 MILLION subscribers…and all by word of mouth (or word of email.) MySpace, IPod, Craig’s List…really, all successes due to underground rumblings from a life force of youth.
I no longer wear Pups or Clark’s. I’m a bit too old for MySpace (although I have to drop in there from time to time), I’ve got my IPod mini and I adore Craig’s List for just about anything.
I recognize the power of any grass roots action. And grass roots is what I’m all about. So, I’m hearing my rumblings. Gen Plus (my company),which really is about reinventing what 50 plus is all about is rumbling in the Mid-West. There are a lot of 50-somethings and 60-somethings looking for their own MySpace. We’re seeing the moves happening and feeling the pulse of our gang. You are finding us and we are finding you. For those of you in the middle of the US, reach out, spoke out, speak out and root outward. Visit us at Gen Plus. Take the plunge. Join us. We’ve made the room to give you your space.