This eye-opening documentary brings up a well-known issue that concerns every parent and teacher alive. Millions of teenagers all over the world are falling prey to the attacks of consumerism and the overwhelming desire to be cool and to fit in. Teenagers and their parents are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of cash, money they sometimes don’t really have, in exchange for popularity and the ability to be like everybody else.
These “merchants of cool” are more than happy to comply. They spend hours sifting through huge stacks of market research data, conducting endless surveys, combing neighborhoods, schools, and malls hot on the trail of the next fad that will pique the interest of their prey.
These merchants have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic in the world, the most studied generation in history, and a segment now said to be worth about $150 billion in the United States alone.
Now more than ever teens have more money and more say over how they will spend that money. Teens seem to be running today’s economy because their many of parents have a misguided need to please them or to “keep them happy”. Add to that the guilt money because parents are too busy to spend time with their teens. This can be taken to the bank.
Cool hunting has now become the strategy used by companies. This is a term coined to describe a search for a certain type of personality and a certain kind of player in a network. The cool hunter correspondents are trained to find trendsetters, a leader within his own group. The researchers contact these teens, interview them and then place the information on their website. Companies pay a fee to get access to this data and are then able to create products that will appeal to this age group. The mass consumer then picks up the trend and runs with it.
One of the most difficult aspects of marketing to teenagers is that the marketers themselves need to be cool. Not just looking the part but also actually being the part. That means that a huge investment is made in an almost anthropological study of teens, meticulously analyzing their every move to get a first-hand idea of what they like and what they want.
Are these merchants only catering to the desires of teenagers or are they actually planting those desires?