Indie Consumers Dodge Cultural Cliches

Indie brand backlash is upon us, but indie consumers prove creatively loyal. A new study shows that taste-maker consumers who strongly identify with indie products find creative ways to stay loyal to their brands even when those brands go mainstream and are trivialized as “hip.” The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors further assert that mythic brands — Harley-Davidson bikes or Chanel, for instance — can reach a cultural tipping point where a marketplace myth degenerates into a cultural cliché. While earlier research has suggested that some consumers will abandon brands once they are no longer associated with positive meanings by tastemakers, the authors found that many consumers are able to “demythologize” their consumption practices. They proactively distance themselves from “hipster” labels and keep on buying what they like.

The authors interviewed individuals who participated in the indie marketplace as consumers or tastemakers (such as DJs and music critics). The researchers did not mention hipsters in the interview. “Interestingly all participants but one wanted to talk about how they were mistaken for, or accused of being a hipster just because they were consuming indie products,” the authors write.