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Smells like teen spirit: Channelling subcultural traditions in contemporary Dr Martens branding

Journal of Consumer Culture

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In 2012, the Dr Martens footwear company announced profits of £22 million with a 230% rise in sales from 2011–2012. In the light of this achievement, this paper will investigate the ideologies behind recent marketing campaigns – ‘First and Forever’ (A/W 2011 and S/S 2012) and ‘Individual Style. United Spirit’ (A/W2012) – and will consider the specific branding strategies that have encouraged such consumer attention during this period.

A textual analytical approach to promotional materials, including website resources and product catalogue, will specifically identify the role that the brand’s heritage plays within the contemporary campaign. This paper will argue that youth subcultural appropriations of the brand during the 20th century are specifically channelled in the 21st century and provide an essential framework that positions the current identity of the brand in relation to its historical antecedents. It is argued that the Dr Martens’ company consciously promotes the ‘cultural biography’ of its product and subsequently utilises subcultural tropes to attract the contemporary consumer.