Highsnobiety invests in long-form documentary to increase its street cred

Highsnobiety has produced its first-ever long-form documentary, which explores the street wear movement in South Korea and investigate the exploding counterfeit culture in the Asian country. The move into video perfectly matches the brand’s image, according to founder, David Fischer.

The lifestyle and street wear brand started scaling on video late last year, producing two to five minutes long premium video content. It also started growing its video operation from a headcount perspective internally to produce more content on Facebook, Instagram and Instagram Stories after setting a target of achieving 500 million views for 2017.

Speaking to The Drum, Fischer explained that next step for the brand is to produce long-form, premium video content that allows Highsnobiety to tell the stories that it wants to tell, because it perfectly matches the brand’s image of being premium, exclusive and authoritative in the field of street culture and men's lifestyle.

“It's a very natural development for us. Our first documentary has really showed us that we can win with this type of content. Not only was it the longest piece of video content that we have produced to date, but it was also the most successful by far, which is very exciting,” he added.

Video storytelling has been on the rise in the recent years, with Vice Media’s Viceland gaining the most attention for their lifestyle-focused documentary targeted at millennials on platforms like HBO. It has also started exploring topics like human trafficking and terrorism, with its behind-the-scenes look at neo-Nazis in the recent Charlottesville rally getting more than two million views on YouTube.

When asked if Highsnobiety intends to go down this path with its video strategy, Fischer rebutted the idea and insisted that in the foreseeable future the brand will be keeping its long-form content in line with its key verticals of style, sneakers and music and to provide insights into the worlds that it is deeply embedded in.

“We will use analytics to steer us in the correct direction and use our own internal resources to identify the stories we know will be the most interesting,” he explained.

“Our next two topics touch on areas of street wear and fashion that are hardly ever mentioned in the media but that we know will tell amazing stories.

“There is still so much room to grow our video offering (while remaining focused on the world of lifestyle), that we do not see the need to enter current affairs any time soon.”

While Highnobiety plans to produce organic content for its video storytelling at the moment, its unique position of being both a publisher and an agency allows it to have more bandwidth when packaging the content it produces.

“The amount of sponsored content compared to our organic news content is so little, that we are far away from having an issue on that front,” said Fischer.

“I would even go a step further. Our sponsored content is among our very best, because it allows us to put more budget behind the production and produce the highest quality content.”

Being a publisher that also offer creative agency services to its clients has been a very exciting development, added Fischer, as Highsnobiety is now involved much earlier in the process with advising on strategy, producing the content and supporting on activation.

“We are in a lucky position because most clients of ours come to us because they need our aesthetic for their content. They need somebody to support them in creating content that engages with a young and influential male audience.

“We are essentially being hired to create content that looks like ours and as such we are more than excited to dive even deeper into our creative services business and be a partner across the board to our clients,” he explained.

Looking ahead, Fischer believes that Asia is an important region for the Berlin-based brand and is looking to gain a foothold in this side of the world. It currently has an office in Hong Kong, together with its main competitor Hypebeast.

“Asia has always been an important continent for Highsnobiety. From the day the site was launched, we were writing about premium fashion coming out of Japan. Korea is one of the fastest growing markets in our world and as such was a perfect subject for this first documentary,” said Fischer.

“We see ourselves as a truly global publisher, both from a business and a content perspective. Reporting about trends in Asia is as natural to us as reporting on trends in the US and Europe.

“Our office in Hong Kong allows us to produce all of our content in Asia from a central hub. Asia is definitely an area where we can still vastly expand into in the near future.”

Even though Hypebeast is already dealing in ecommerce with its online store, Fischer is not keen to take on a competitor head on even though he admitted that there are merits in ecommerce. Instead, just like Highsnobiety’s video strategy, the brand will forge its own path.

“Our platform is known for product recommendations. We know that many of our readers consult us before going shopping,” said Fischer.

“Also, we have experimented often already with selling product on our site. I can absolutely see ecommerce becoming a bigger part of our strategy in the future, but we do not see ourselves becoming a classic retailer.

“We are already scaling our commerce business through content and we will further invest into a commerce strategy in the future.”

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Shawn Lim

Shawn Lim is a reporter at The Drum, covering industry news around the Asia Pacific region with a focus on Singapore and Southeast Asia. Based in Singapore, he has worked across photography, video and online, covering a range of subjects including current affairs and sports.

Before Game of Thrones, he was a huge Breaking Bad fan. He does CrossFit and yoga to stay healthy.

All by Shawn