Reebok by Beverley Goodwin

Advertisers are on an everlasting “cool” hunt

Socially Smart - Jon Waldman
Socially Smart – Jon Waldman

Photo by Beverley Goodwin

Back when I was in journalism school, I was exposed to one of the premier articles of my generation – “The Coolhunt,” written by Malcolm Gladwell in 1997 (he of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference fame).
The article followed two designated “coolhunters” – those being a company exec from Reebok and an advertising guru – as they boldly looked at trends and tried to revive the company’s position amid a bust period following its boom in the ‘80s. (Suffice to say their echo today is pretty damn good, especially after a re-branding to RBK.)
The interesting line of the article to me was this: “Coolhunting is not about the articulation of a coherent philosophy of cool. It’s just a collection of spontaneous observations and predictions that differ from one moment to the next and from one coolhunter to the next.”
In the advertising/marketing world, this is a never-ending game of building a better mousetrap. It involves media buys and web content creation that is savvy to Google’s standards, proper positioning in traditional models like the Yellow Pages, and embracing social media.
And as many mousetraps as we build, there’s always a younger demo that seems to be ahead of the curve.
The rocky road of Facebook is a prime example of this. For years, any Gen Yer (myself included) loved the platform – it became part of our daily routine alongside brushing our teeth (and sometimes you’d do it simultaneously).
What has happened more recently though is that Facebook has lost its market share in the social sphere. Witness an article from The Washington Post published in early October. The article cited a Piper Jaffray study – one of the more extensive I’ve seen to date – which found that of the 7,200 U.S. students surveyed (with the average age of 16), only 45 per cent used the social media giant.
Yep, less than half.
The coolhunt continued on in the study, when the iWatch was tested in the same group. Only 17 per cent expressed interest in buying the device. This from a generation who in the same study had a 67 per cent rate of iPhone ownership (and more said their next phone would be an Apple product as well).
Studying the way that millennials act, walk, talk and buy is only going to get more interesting for businesses as that demographic gets closer and closer to full-out employment and consumerism. Spending dollars on unfamiliar media will take on a new challenge for companies as they target the emerging generation.
Thus, the coolhunt continues, and there are new and innovative ways to look at these demos.
Consider what one company in the U.S. is doing. PlaceIQ uses opt-in programs in mobile devices and other geomarketing applications to come up with all sorts of demo statistics that otherwise would be impossible to find in the offline world.
Take a case study that appears on the company’s website as a sample. By tracking movements of said mobile devices, the company was able to see which demographics were likely to choose Subway over Chipotle and what their next destination was after they finished their meal.
Yes, there’s a Big Brother aspect to this, and there are increasing privacy concerns, but the ability to trace is getting larger and larger. Does a “Game of Thrones” viewer shop at Target? Will the Angry Birds gamer be more inclined to open an ad if it’s from a local restaurant offering a coupon? These are the answers that are unfolding now.
So whether your eyes – or your technology – is clued into the trends, you can recognize the importance of the coolhunt; Malcolm Gladwell’s original article holds all the merit today that it did back in ’97, before some of the people we’re observing today were even born.
Jon Waldman is a marketing strategist with Cohesive Marketing. To learn more about the services the company offers, call 204-992-6400 or visit

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