people are generally unresponsive to traditional brand marketing messages. What
they do respond to is something "cool." But "cool" keeps changing. So if
you're a marketer, how do you find "cool?" Many corporations hire the expertise
of Look-Look a research company specializing in youth culture.
Read below some of FRONTLINE's interview with Look-Look's co-founders, Dee Dee
Gordon and Sharon Lee. They explain more about their business and the challenges
of hunting for cool.
Why do your clients hire you guys? What are they looking for? What do they
do with the information you give them?
Gordon: I think they're looking to us to be kind of the eyes and ears of
youth culture. It's a difficult job. You can't understand a whole culture by
checking in every now and then or a phone here or an article there. So they
kind of rely on us as a resource to say, "This is what's going on" all the
time, to give them kind of a pulse.
...For instance, we have some clients who are interested in taking a product
that already exists and finding a way that it can appeal to young people. So
they will use our information to find out if that product is even interesting
to them or if there's a way that they could make it more interesting. Same
thing with advertising. They like to test whether or not their advertising is
relevant to these kids or what kind of advertising is relevant, so that they
can do something similar. Or let's say they want to like create a whole new
brand or a whole new product with a company that targets a specific audience.
They take out information to assist in inspiring project designers, in helping
them market the new product, even in naming the product, and then eventually
testing. They use our database to recruit kids to test the products out, stuff
How would an entertainment media outlet use you guys?
Lee: It depends on what it is. There's various ways. I mean most people will
use us to help in marketing, finding new ways to reach kids, finding new
products and new promotions, new events to get involved in -- even down to
who's a popular actor or actress that maybe they should cast for the film, what
magazines they should be advertising in. Sometimes there are new scenes that
pop up out of nowhere that kids like to pass around. Studios want to know if
they should be involved in that, too. All kinds of different stuff.
What are some of the major misconceptions that companies have about
Lee: One of the motivations for starting our company is that there's so many
times we'd sit across from clients and they would ask us the same type
questions over and over and over again, no matter where you went.
Lee: "What's the hottest new brand with kids?" This one is my favorite: "My
son just bought roller blades. So all the kids must be getting into roller
blades, right?" Or "My son's saying the word 'dope'. That must be the hottest
word to use now, right?" Well, because they don't have a resource, if they
have teenagers or if they have neighbors, they kind of use that as a one-man
focus group and try to get information. But they want to know in general what
are they like, how do they feel, what's important to them? I mean they just
don't have a clear sense of where to begin with that information, because it's
such a foreign set of people that they don't interact day to day.
And it's so basic that we were a lot of times repeating the same things like,
"Well, you know, you really shouldn't talk down to teenagers. You should first
educate yourself on what they do like. Why don't you pick up a magazine they
read and look at that? Why don't you watch a TV show that they like? Why
don't you go out and hang out at some of their hang-outs and observe without
judgment of what they're doing, how they're doing it and what they're
enjoying?" These days it's just because they don't have time. They're time
poor. And it's intimidating. ...
...How does a trend spread?
Lee: ...Actually it's a triangle. At the top of the triangle there's the
innovator, which is like two to three percent of the population. Underneath
them is the trend-setter, which we would say is about 17 percent. And what
they do is they pick up on ideas that the innovators are doing and they kind of
claim them as their own. Underneath them is an early adopter, which is
questionable exactly what their percentage is, but they kind of are the layer
above mainstream, which is about 80 percent. And what they do is they take
what the trend-setter is doing and they make it palatable for mass consumption.
They take it, they tweak it, they make it more acceptable, and that's when the
mass consumer picks up on it and runs with it and then it actually kills it.
Talk about the Internet aspect of what you do.
Lee: Well, the Internet is this great resource for both the kids and us. It's
a vital link. Most researchers take this perspective of, "Oh, we'll go out
there in the field," which happens maybe once or twice of three times in a
year, and "[We'll] get the information from that and that'll be enough." And
the reason why we think it's not is that because young people use the Internet
as an everyday part of life and it's such a resource for them. Communication,
spreading ideas, learning about things that the speed with which information
travels has just accelerated to such a degree that you really need that online
real time resource to say, "This is what's going on." It's moving faster and
faster and faster.
And the other part of it is that we can reach out to so many more people,
instantly globally. You know, it's like this global network of our community
of correspondents, respondents, and us and we're able to communicate so much
more efficiently. ... The Internet part of it makes all of that so much more
efficient and so much easier, because they can just come into our network,
decide they want to be a correspondent ... and then the information gets loaded
up so much quicker of the people who are interested.
Describe the structure of your website. [How does it work?]
Lee: The website is a big database. It keeps collecting information as it gets
streamed in from all of our various correspondents. It's always clicking and
learning and sorting information. So you have 500 correspondents out there at
random moments saying, "Here's a great jeans story that I saw in my town."
"Here's a great music story that I think is really important." And the website
is a database, which is a mechanism that collects this and sorts this and then
it also publishes it out. So that you get all this really complicated
voluminous information and it's easy to fit understanding segments.
Publishes it for whom?
Gordon: Publishes it for anybody who's interested in this culture. It's
marketers who want to market to them. It's media people. It's copywriters at
advertising agencies. It's, you know, a news person from Associated Press.
There's such a broad range of people that are interested in the culture for
various reasons that, if you think about it, that's what we're provided is a
resource for all that information.
What kinds of companies hire you?
Gordon: Manufacturers of apparel, health and beauty, cosmetics and
fragrances; people who are manufacturing footwear; movie studios; sports
associations; electronics companies; advertising agencies.
Read Gordon and Lee's full interview
with FRONTLINE. And also check out Malcolm Gladwell's interview
with FRONTLINE about Dee Dee Gordon and cool hunters as well as Gladwell's The New Yorker article about
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