Pop culture and trends have always influenced fashion, but the way that’s happening seems to be changing. It’s not just, “What is my favorite celebrity wearing?” Brands are putting pizza, tacos and now gummy worms on clothing, and consumers — especially Generation Z — are eating it up.
In particular, Gen Z has a thing for sneakers. “Sneaker-head culture” is an actual thing, and creative and marketing directors are very serious about tapping into this $55 billion industry.
While past generations may have collected stamps, Pokémon cards or Silly Bandz, today’s teen and young adult shoppers are willing to drop big bucks on the latest and greatest sneaker fad — and the harder it is to get their kick fix, the more teens want it, and the more they’re willing to pay.
It’s basic psychology — or, as the kids these days might call it, #FOMO (fear of missing out). Taking a mildly desirable product and making it rare and limited is apparently some kind of magic recipe for making people want it more. Exclusivity creates a sense of urgency, and that gets people searching.
This has led many non-sneaker brands to seek ways to become relevant in the sneaker space as a means of growing their own brand. Pizza Hut, for instance, came out with a pair of high tops that let the wearer order pizza by pressing a button on the tongue. Oreo did some colorways with Adidas.
White Castle stamped its logo on some classic Vans. Whataburger created a pair of orange-and-white-striped Nike Air Jordans and polka-dotted Adidas featuring condiment brands. Nike also had a pair of Momofuku SB Dunk High Pro sneakers designed by the restaurant chain’s owner, David Chang.
It’s notable, then, that Trolli — the candy brand best known for its sour gummy worms — is doing the exact opposite: Instead of making its Sour Bright Sneaks out of rubber and textiles, it’s making them out of the same delicious sweet stuff it uses for its other popular candies.
Yep, it’s literally the same candy — just shaped like sneakers. Yet consumers are hitting the pavement to get them from the nearest 7-Eleven, where Sour Bright Sneaks are exclusively sold, before stock runs out — again.
Dustin Joyce, creative director at Periscope, which partnered with Trolli to create the Sour Bright Sneaks, said it’s all about making products a social currency — something consumers can talk about with their friends on the weekend.
“Everybody else is making wearable sneakers based on food,” Joyce said, “but we’re making candy sneakers.”
That includes the miniature candy shoes that are sold by the bag at 7-Eleven as well as a single life-size, Adidas Harden Vol. 2-style sneaker made of solid Trolli gummy candy, which Joyce said was auctioned off via sneaker marketplace StockX, where it raised $30,000 for James Harden’s charity.
Joyce said the goal of the life-size candy shoe was to engage fans in an authentic way. Through social and online experiences, he said, brands can improve their overall interaction with customers to become not just a brand that’s talking at people to get to their wallets, but is talking with them and participating in their lives.
It’s not all about fan service though. Joyce said it’s also important for brands to stay true to their core identity. For Trolli, that’s “weirdly awesome” — so, as bizarre as a meta candy shoe might seem, it’s actually a perfect fit for the brand.
Joyce said those things — participatory branding and identity reinforcement — are two ways that brands can become an additive to what their customers and fans are already doing and enjoying. Thus, he said, brands can become an enhancement to make people’s lives more interesting, fun and (at least in Trolli’s case) “weirdly awesome.”