Hip Hip Hooray: Getting Popular Online by Acting Like a Hipster


This post is NOT funny. I have written funny SEO posts long before it was cool. Back then SEO was not cool at all. It still isn’t unless it is. Cool is not enough though. You need to be hip. No joke. While during my youth you had to be part of a subculture nowadays people between 15 and 30 need to be hip. There are some emos too but they get treated like outcasts.

So called hipsters are a huge demographic phenomenon like baby boomers or the generation x.

You can create lots of great content, be an expert in your trade and even garner a decent amount of links and still come in second or third because in front of you in the SERPs are the hip brands, sites or products.

The hipster is such a common Internet and real life appearance that is has become the focal point of much debate and some malicious glee too.

No matter whether you consider yourself a hipster or even know someone who could be identified as one you need to consider what’s hip when you offer products of any kind. The hipsters, unlike the hippies, are not a political movement, it’s a consumer movement.

Hipsterism is a way of life defined by products they buy, use and display publicly.

In case you are hip you get the opportunity to get myriads of hipsters not only to enjoy your product but spread the word about your brand.

You will probably know some things that are commonly considered hip among the young and virtually hyperactive generation of digital natives.

  • Apple
  • fixed gear bikes
  • checkered shirts
  • everything vintage & retro
  • mustaches
  • irony

I started with the products on purpose because some brands have managed to become hip and stay that way despite being used by everybody. No one uses Windows computers on campus these days unless they are weirdos. Everybody has to own an Apple computer. To “Think Different” is the new peer pressure. So

being hip is also being individual in a warped way. While everybody is trying to be different than everybody else people are ending up looking the same again.

Non-hipsters hate hipsters because they are commonly white middle class artsy-types with enough money to lead a life of hedonism without much work. Whether that’s true is another question. The most common trait is probably that you can not tell whether a hipster is poor or wealthy because s/he doesn’t look overtly rich with their ragged look. For example you can buy a simple checkered shirt for 369$ from hip design brand Maison Kitsune.

In the nineties the hipsters would have been called slackers probably.

Hipsters prefer products that are the best in a reduced kind of way. They prefer well-designed products. They want to fit in by buying the correct products others consider hip too. By now I need to show some examples of hip sites beyond Apple. Etsy is hip. It’s DIY and individualist in a designer way. Tumblr is still hip despite becoming more mainstream over the years but it’s the antidote to the dull Facebook full of parents showing off babies.

Anyway, to come back to the checkered shirt example, I have found one within minutes that looked every similar, even better, for 24.99$

So obviously the value of the checkered shirt by itself is not clearly visible.

One shirt costs 15 times more than the other because one is hip and the other one is not. Of course you could argue that one may be Made in China, the other one isn’t, one perhaps is woven of organic cotton the other isn’t, etc. but the apparent differences aren’t that clear. It’s the hipness that propels the price in such lofty heights. By appealing to hipsters you can charge much more than just by selling to average people. The invisible aura of a product matters.

So how can you act like a hipster to become hip enough for young consumers?

Offer products that are both simple and high value. Apple products usually have fewer features and worse technical specs than the competition. Still Apple gets the long lines in front of stores before every launch. Apple can even get away with manufacturing their products in China at Foxconn and numerous worker suicides. Hipsters don’t care for the nominal value.The perceived value is similar to that of money. The more hipsters agree that something is cool and hip the better.

Introduce personalization and DIY elements. For example make it possible to add a name to your product. I don’t think just website personalization like a decade ago were the site says “Hello Tad” when I visit it but real products like bikes.

Ideally you offer an online tool where you can select colors, features and add-ons that get added to your mass produced item you ship in the end.

Many fixed gear bike online stores do just that. Of course enthusiasts try to build their own ones so giving them a helping hand by providing the guides and the materials will go a long way.

Reproduce classic versions of (your) products from past decades. Many people long to the old old days when life was simple. Probably it wasn’t but nostalgia is stronger than the truth. Old school is very hip. It’s not just retro or vintage. It’s about the early versions of your products we remember from our childhood. In case your business isn’t around for that long don’t fret.

You can just pick a common design from back in the days and make your modern version of it. It should look and feel like the original but be actually better from the technical point of view. Modern radios that look like their counterparts from the fifties are a good example here.

Ask artists to design unique versions of your products. I’ve seen shirts, shoes even bikes modified or beautified by artists. Often street artists get involved in such product improvements. These unique products, often just a few items made in a small series not only sell well but also transfer the positive image of those artists to you.

Sponsor out of this world events of yet unknown musicians e.g. You are not hip when you focus your sponsorship efforts on mainstream artists and musicians. Young and yet unknown artists won’t cost you millions and will be glad to contribute to your success.

Heck, you can even sponsor bloggers and websites.

Hosting companies do it all the time, offering free web hosting for popular art, music and style publications. That’s more of downright link building strategy though. I mean real branding efforts here beyond just scoring with Google.


When acting like a hipster always remember that you won’t become one just by parroting.

Also 40 or even 50 year old hipsters rather look dirty than hip. So you don’t want to dress up like a hipster, emo or punk to appeal to the younger generations. You’d rather pick people of their age who already look and behave like that to support you.

It’s like with parents and their kids. You can’t attempt to act like your daughter or son but you can learn from them and instead of wondering how stupid they behave make sure to treat them with utmost tolerance.

Surround yourself and your company with hip people and you will be appear hip as well.

Let them modernize your business even in case it means going two steps backwards to a time when everything had fewer features and more style. Hipsters don’t rebel against society as a whole, they rebel against people who do not even have taste. I’m too old to beĀ  a real hipster but I’ve been wearing checkered shirts long before they were cool. So I know what I’m talking about.

* Creative Commons image by Pedro Glez.