NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For Apple (AAPL) to overcome its most recent and abysmal quarter, it must continue to win the battle for "cool." At day's end, the mass market doesn't really care about superior products. It cares about cool.
I first heard the term "coolhunter" in William Gibson's excellent 2003 book Pattern Recognition. Apparently, "coolhunting" has been part of marketing lingo since the 1990s.
Gibson used the term to describe the profession of one of the book's main characters. Cayce Pollard consulted ad agencies on emerging trends. In an ironic but useful twist, she couldn't stomach billboards and other forms of advertising. She scraped all logos off of her clothing and was psychologically offended by old mascots for popular products and services.
I imagine the symbol for Research in Motion's (RIMM) flagship BlackBerry product would be especially revolting.Over the weekend, a Wall Street Journal article indirectly alluded to coolhunting. The piece resonated with something that's been on my mind for a while. Whenever I see somebody out in public with two smartphones -- most often an iPhone and a BlackBerry -- I strike up a conversation. This tends to happen on line at a place like Starbucks. The Journal provided support for one of my long-standing theories when it highlighted the experiences of several folks who own and operate both devices. Based on my informal social experiment, I argue that what the following people say represents the sentiment of a significant number of people:
Amanda Slavin, the 26-year-old director of marketing and events for a New York restaurant group, is used to getting skeptical looks when she pulls out her BlackBerry. She quickly heads off any judgment. "Don't worry, I also have an iPhone," she says.
"I hide my BlackBerry unless I actually need to use it," says Stephen Matyasfalvi, 38, a Toronto business consultant. "If I am choosing what device to have out for browsing, calling, etc., it's the iPhone and not the BlackBerry. It's not even about being cooler with the iPhone, they just look so much better!"This speaks for itself. Another trend the Journal observed jibes with something many iPhone-BlackBerry dual users have told me over the years: They would love to see a phone that blends the best of a BlackBerry -- namely, the keyboard -- with the best of an iPhone -- the cool, slick design and image quality, and the ease of organizing and sharing. The Journal dubbed it an "iBerry." In any event, Apple has cornered the market on cool. It's the stuff that consumer psychology and sociology is made of.
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