An impressive show of hands shot up towards the ceiling of Polimoda’s Aula Magna as Highsnobiety founder David Fischer asked a simple yet revealing question: “How many of you actually know my website?”.
Considered by many a veritable streetwear bible and sneakerhead haven, the Berlin-based online publication has been setting the standards for the past 12 years, introducing revolutionary concepts in the fields of branded content and multiplatform communications. From the birth of communities to the end of .com, Fischer tackled many leading-edge topics during his Polimoda Rendez-Vous.
“When I started, nobody believed that blogging could be a business… that’s certainly how my parents felt about it!” Fischer joked with the crowd as he took a step back in time to recount the birth of Highsnobiety. “At first, it was essentially a passion blog. It was just me writing about the things that I cared the most – limited edition sneakers, obscure Japanese streetwear and all kinds of other weird stuff. When I was young it was really hard to find something that would bring together communication and fashion design so I had to study business and find my own way into this market. I believe you should really cherish the fact that courses and schools like Polimoda exist today”.
Highsnobiety pioneered its first steps into the digital world just three months before YouTube hit the pixel screen and Instagram and Facebook were yet to become household names.
Since its birth in 2005, the website has learned to master and cater to its many different channels, making platform bespoke content one of its flagship features.
“The way we tell stories has changed. We have gone from the TV’s single-screen experience to a multiplatform experience, from being fed as a consumer to actually seeking out our own ‘nutrition’. Having a great product doesn’t cut it anymore – in order to be top-of-mind for a young audience, brands need to be ready to infuse their products with internet culture and be aware of the constant shift in expectations, market trends and platforms. As for me, I never cease to be surprised by our young audience’s hunger for information – this is the power of the web and what drives us deeper and deeper in our quest for compelling narrative.”
“Branded communication is based on a three-step process that has to be repeated over and over again: listen, learn and apply. Connection is made through stories and what Highsnobiety does is match people and product in order to create an authentic message in an authentic context that is told custom for each network. Format is really important according to the audience you want to reach: show your message on the wrong screen and it’s lost”.
From Instagram stories to long-form YouTube videos, each Highsnobiety co-branding campaign is implemented differently but never downplays the importance of being native to the platform and its community. In case of negative feedback, censorship is considered highly ineffective and detrimental to the two-way communication process that underlies all of the publication’s tribe-building strategies.
“If you don’t fully understand internet culture, people are going to know you’re not for real and react. Censorship doesn’t work anymore – you have to embrace, lead and keep a firm grasp on the conversation rather than hide behind it or delete it. Deliver reasonable answers, work with your users and, if possible, guide them back to you.”
“As a modern brand you need act like a publisher, make sure that you communicate at all times with the right tone of voice and have a signature style. In order to engage a culturally-forward audience and build a loyal following, you have to be an active player within the conversation and always practice what you preach: you are part of a living, breathing ecosystem”.
Highsnobiety boasts over 500 million monthly impressions, most of which can be lead back to influential style-seekers and early adopters. These users expect quality cutting-edge information and rely on the website to dish out daily news on what’s now and what’s next. In a world where consumers are crippled by the paradox of choice, brand loyalty has become object of contention and absolute aim.
Community is nowadays more than ‘nice-to-have’… it is a must-have. When you have outlined your target, you need to learn its language, get to know its members, be where they hang out, share their passions and ultimately earn their trust. Content will always be the main bridge and bond with your tribe –you won’t be able to survive the dynamics of our hyper-connected world without their interaction and support.