What Marketers Can Learn from Supreme’s Souped Up Metro Cards

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Cover image for  article: What Marketers Can Learn from Supreme’s Souped Up Metro Cards

This week on Mindshare’s Culture Vulture Live, Joe Maceda gives us the scoop on why New York City subway cards have suddenly gotten so popular.

As it turns out, the streetwear brand Supreme recently invested in ad space on the fare cards. In keeping with their limited release philosophy, the number of metro cards featuring the brand is unknown.  They were available in only a handful of stations and then only from particular machines.

This caused the crowds to go wild. To make matters more exclusive, fans sometimes had to buy a slew of regular cards before the machine would spit out the Supreme branded prizes. The $5.50 two-ride cards were bought up quickly, some buying up to 50 at a time. They actually sold out in a day and are already reselling for 50-100 dollars, both locally and as far away as Indonesia.

What this sudden cultural trend tells us is that a treasure is different for everyone. For some shoppers and fans, it’s the braggability. For others it’s desiring something that they perceive as being more valuable than its cost. At $5.50, a ride card has great value to those who are fanatic about the Supreme brand.

This follows a trend that Mindshare’s been tracking, called Happenstancing. In a world that increasingly feels contrived, the desire for surprise, randomness and happenstance increases. Brands can use happenstancing to drive attention and offer up unexpected experiences in the sea of sameness.

Also, brands should note that media comes in all shapes and sizes. The metro cards worked perfectly for Supreme because the limited availability and hunt for the card aligned perfectly with their brand’s DNA of scarcity and hype. And, the unique form of advertising put at least 50,000 branded cards in the hands of commuters flashing the logo all over the city.

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