Merchants of Cool
Merchants of Cool introduces the character of the Mook and the idea of the girl sexpot. The media has created a girl sexpot and a boy sexpot and teenagers aspire to be them. In this way, media plays on gender stereotypes and sells gender images. But can these stereotypes be questioned? In this article, we'll examine some of the challenges in marketing to teenage boys and girls.
Marketing to teenagers
In the quest to find the next big thing, marketers are going "cool hunting" in high schools. They'll take pictures of the trend setters and hope to influence the next big thing. Think of the Iphone and the Ipod, which were launched in 2001. How can the hottest companies get their products so close to the coveted teen heart? They use clever marketing tactics that appeal to the desires of teenagers, and their ads are incredibly effective.
Currently, teenagers represent a $150 billion market. They are a coveted demographic, commanding over thirty million dollars of disposable income. They are exposed to over three thousand advertising messages a day and react to what they think is "cool." As a result, marketers and businesses are constantly trying to tap into this elusive consumer demographic. The key to capturing this coveted demographic is to know when to reach them and how to reach them.
In a documentary on PBS Frontline, Douglas Rushkoff exposes the dehumanizing influence of the media on young people and exposes the destructive effects of corporate America's marketing strategy on our youth. Rather than following teenagers' instincts and guiding them in the right direction, corporations are exploiting them to sell merchandise. The media-saturated youth culture they are creating is based on the desires and hopes of the "typical" American teenager, which is a product of this marketing strategy.
Merchants of cool on MTV is a perfect example of how a mainstream media company listens to the youth it serves in order to market to them and make money. Seventy-five percent of teens have a TV in their room and a third use a personal computer, each of these places exposing these young people to commercial messages. The message itself may be harmless but the underlying message is one of bad taste.
If marketers are the messengers, then teenagers are the movers and shakers. By manipulating them, they can create culture. Through Sprite focus groups, TV shows, commercials, and tours, teens can influence the brands of others. This strategy has a powerful effect on the culture, which can help Sprite become a more appealing drink. But teenagers are not the only ones who can influence marketers. They can also influence the youth culture by their actions.
What is a "cool hunter?" A cool hunter is someone who conducts market research and sifts through endless surveys and focus groups in order to pinpoint what the youth of the present wants. These "cool hunters" also conduct field research and identify the Next Big Thing, before it hits the mainstream. These people also comb neighborhoods and schools for "cool" products and services. And they are not the only ones who make a living. In fact, the industry is worth $150 billion annually, thanks to these people.