Not long ago on I saw an ad for Bic razors called the "Hipstervention" campaign. In candid PSA-style videos, you could watch fictional moms speaking about how their boys used to be so sweet and clean-shaven -- but are now bearded, tattooed skateboarders.
Sure enough, this is not the first or only attempt to pick on America's stubbly youth in the name of making a sale. Below is a short list of examples, along with a deeper look at Bic's campaign.
1. Bic's "Hipstervention."
Whereas some of the campaigns listed below bash the stereotypical hipster ethos and style -- loosely defined as a fetish for microbrews, tight pants, beards, bicycles, and vocational indifference -- the brilliance of Bic's "Hipstervention" campaign is that it pleases while it teases. At no point do you get the sense that the company truly dislikes or wants to alienate the facial-hair population. The whole thing has a "we're only joking" vibe that is easy to appreciate, but difficult to pull off when you're poking fun at a group.
For example, the "Hipstervention" site has a section with signs and symptoms that your precious boy may, in fact, be a hipster. These signs include "20/20 vanity" (wearing fashionable frames just for the look, without a prescription) and writing a screenplay on an old-school typewriter (the theme of which is "you only live once"). But the master stroke of the campaign is, indeed, the PSA from the heartbroken mom:
2. H&R Block's "Hipster Tax Crisis."
What's superb about this campaign is that it's surprising. Razor and beer companies, you might expect to mention hipsters in their marketing. But a tax-preparation company?
Yes. Many Millennials "look at us and say, 'That's my dad's, my granddad's tax company," Scott Gulbransen, director of social influence at H&R Block, tells The New York Times. "And our competition, TurboTax, is a little more hip, if you will."
In one of the online videos, hipsters tell ESPN's Kenny Mayne what they intend to do with their tax refunds. The list includes: buying more loose-leaf tea, eating some quinoa, and shopping for bed frames.
What's more, H&R Block pledged to make a donation to the nonprofit Covenant House, which serves the homeless, for every social media share of "Hipster Tax Crisis" content. "It's not just hipsters who like that," notes Julia Kupper, in her superb list of anti-hipster marketing campaigns on Contently.com.
3. Schick's "Free Your Skin."
The idea behind Schick's "Free Your Skin" campaign is simple: If you can't control your facial hair's forest-like growth, your beard will turn into a barnyard animal. And you wouldn't want that, would you?
"Sure, it's a bit creepy, but it's also fantastically creative," writes Kupper. And the beards really do look like animals:
4. Samsung's anti-iPhone commercial.
What's interesting about this ad is that it doesn't rise to the level of a full-fledged campaign against hipsters. It's just one commercial, capitalizing on the prevailing stereotypes of hipsters as a group drunk on form and trend, even in the absence of function.
Toward the end of the ad, there are even some hipsters who claim they've switched to the Samsung Galaxy S3. One of these Samsung converts continues to wait in a long line outside an Apple store. The reason? To save a spot for his parents.
5. Garagista Beer's "War on Hipsters."
In this campaign, the South African beer company "positions the brand as absolutely not the right choice for the coolest people on earth," notes AdWeek.
Which might seem like a seriously straightforward attack on hipsters. But the commercials reveal a softer side. For instance, "The Hipster Hijacking" is an over-the-top, slapstick affair in which hipsters attack a Garagista beer truck using vinyl records and typewriters as weapons. What prompts the attack? The knowledge that Garagista makes a "limited edition" pale ale.
6. Smirnoff's "Filter the Unnecessary."
A man walks into a bar. "It's fashionably dark, full of people tweaking their trendy hipster beards, texting, and looking so cool they're frankly unapproachable," notesAd Age's Creativity-Online.com magazine.
You can guess what happens next: The man orders some Smirnoff. Presto. "The bar transforms into something more casual, with people having fun and grooving." Smirnoff's idea, reports Ad Age, is to make the brand more inclusive.
Of course, you could also argue that the ad is saying, "We can all have a good time, if we steer clear of those self-important bearded folks."
7. Budweiser mocks craft beer.
This anti-hipster ad earned backlash not only from hipsters, but from other beer companies. Perhaps the ad became a target since it had such high visibility: It aired during the Super Bowl.
"Beer lovers and beer makers of all shapes and sizes are taking issue with the incredibly defensive Budweiser Super Bowl Ad that mocks hipsters, Millennials, and people who like beers that actually taste good," writes Brad Tuttle in Time. "The ad was puzzling -- and arguably hypocritical and foolish -- in several ways, and casual beer drinkers and brewers all over the beer spectrum have said so."
Why hypocritical? Mainly because Budweiser's owner, Anheuser-Busch InBev, "has been buying up craft beer brands left and right," Tuttle notes. For instance, the ad makes fun of anyone who sips "pumpkin peach ale." And yet, Elysian Brewing, which AB-InBev recently acquired, makes beers like Punkuccino Coffee Pumpkin Ale and Superfuzz Blood Orange.
In fact, Elysian's co-founder, Dick Cantwell, told the Chicago Tribune, "I find it kind of incredible that ABI would be so tone-deaf as to pretty directly (even if unwittingly) call out one of the breweries they have recently acquired, even as that brewery is dealing with the anger of the beer community in reaction to the sale."
Was the ad worthy of such a backlash? Judge for yourself. And just remember: If your marketing efforts involve mockery, make sure those you're mocking -- or those who'd feel mocked -- aren't the paying customers you or your competitors would ordinarily covet.