Sarah Matheson Harris

Hot Topic

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For the teenager who never thinks twice about wearing his bright yellow pants and guyliner,

For the little kid who shouts from the mountaintops her love of Pokemon and pentagrams,

For the rap-lovers and dad-rockers, for the fangirls and fanboys, for the people who refuse to hide their ME-flag,

Come, gather. 
Be heard.

Hot Topic
For the Fearless Ones







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This new direction for Hot Topic lives and breathes through an updated look and feel. The new logo, color and textures aim to provide a blank yet bold canvas for consumers to shape however they want.



Hot Topic mall stores are small and full to the brim with merchandise, but people love them the way they are. Although malls are dying, Hot Topic is still thriving. It doesn’t make sense to take all Hot Topics out of malls. So, we’re closing SOME mall stores in regions with abundant locations, and replacing them with a new, secondary store concept called HT Hubs.

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HT Rockville exists as a place for participation with the Hot Topic brand. This is a space for conversation, cultural creation and connection. A place where people can embrace their differences but also come together. The design is simple, modular and adaptive. It is meant to take on the personality of the community it lives in– many of the walls are left blank for local artists to put their stamp on the space. 

The Stance Wall serves as an agile home for rotating products that benefit various causes. These products are similar to items that Hot Topic already offers– t-shirts, hats, and accessories– but their backstories, which you can see scrawled on the shelf’s chalkboard surface, empower shoppers to vote with their dollar.



HT Hub visitors can access a curated, dynamic list of local artists who are accepting commissions.



Each HT Hub will house a chapter of The Fearless Ones membership program. On a local level, people who hold the The Fearless Ones membership card get perks like exclusive products and deals, and access to the multipurpose space. This space is perfect for viewing parties, poetry slam nights or music performances– whatever members want to organize. On a national level, The Fearless Ones program is meant to ensure Hot Topic is staying relevant and listening to their consumers.




When it comes to branded communication, we know that our target is skeptical. They don’t want to be spoken at or for. So, we’re going underground and anonymous to engage them directly and build intrigue.  

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Our campaign begins with the underground distribution of an anonymous Zine– the first volume of a series called “Future-Proof.” It will be hidden in existing Hot Topic mall stores, coffee shops, cafés and other fun places. The voice will be cryptic, yet opinionated– telling stories and expressing ideas in typical–zine fashion. It will be the materialization of Hot Topic’s new voice, but kept anonymous.



Lolz_and_causes is our campaign’s instagram handle. Hot Topic can’t speak to this target from their existing channels social channels without coming off as too commercialized. So we’re creating a finsta-inspired account to directly engage consumers. Just as the initial HT Hub is about to open, lolz_and_causes will reveal a date and an address. By plugging into local artists and their baked in audiences, we can communicate this message authentically and get people in the door. 



Once HT Rockville is up and running, this is how we envision an actionable, non-traditional campaign taking shape. Rockville is a politically-charged region simply because of its proximity to DC. So, ahead of election day, HT Rockville will place provocative questions on prominent buildings around the city. These rhetorical questions invite people to kick back, collaborate and question at HT Rockville.



As a more actionable extension of this campaign, HT Rockville will publicize ways for an individuals to get involved in political activism, even if they aren’t old enough to vote yet. When young people contact their representatives, and volunteer at campaign offices and organizations that provide transportations to the polls, they will receive one of these buttons. This demonstrates that anyone with an opinion and a willingness to act on that opinion is fearless. By acting with conviction, these teens are still able to make their voices heard. 




RJ Clark (CBM)  •  Catie Frech (ST)  •  Sarah Matheson Harris (ST)  •  Joelle Halle (XD)  •  Molly McCarvill (AD)  •  Ainsworth Kerr (CW)