Trend spotting


Marketers are frequent visitors to websites such as and which monitor the Internet to see what products are generating attention. Trend spotting, according to, is the “science of identifying emerging shifts in our social behavior and aspirations�. The more specialized art of cool hunting is “the search for what’s not popular – yet�

Looking for a cool new way to wrap those boring Christmas presents? Then what you may need is rapping paper, which is imprinted with the lyrics of rap songs and is sure to be popular in avant-garde US households this year.

The latest trend in gift-giving was identified last week by Josh Spear, a 22-year-old Colorado student who has become one of America’s leading “cool hunters�, a new breed of internet-based trend spotter whose job is to track down cool new products before everyone tries to copy them.

Young marketing gurus such as Spear were first identified in the 1990s as the agents of corporation desperate for insights into youth culture and the tastes and desires of so-called Generation X and Y consumers.

They have since begun to evolve into a crucial element in online commerce. Marketers are frequent visitors to websites such as and, which monitor the Internet to see what products are generating attention.

“I’m like a futuristic cultural anthropologist, said Spear. “I’m 22 years old, I grew up with the internet and I’m the target for the ads these (businesses) want to put out. I’m like an ambassador that translates for them.�

The exploding importance of the internet has already spawned numerous high-tech efforts to monitor the millions of web-logs and websites for signs of potentially profitable “buzz�. The US-based Nielsen company best known for monitoring television audiences, has launched Buzz Metrics software that sifts through the countless words posted online in search of trends.

Yet Spear launched his eponymous web site two years ago with a simple list of product he likes. He received tips about other products and soon thousands of people were visiting his site. Companies began to send him products in the hope that he would mention them. “It was like, check out my inflatable sleeping bag, Josh,� he said.

Among the early cool hunters who have had to adapt to Internet competition is Jane Rinzler Buckinggham, a California entrepreneur who wrote a book about teenage ambition at 16 and set up Youth Intelligence, a market research firm since sold to CAA, a powerful Hollywood agency.

The firm used to tour cities in search of trend setters who could answer questions that Buckingham summarized as: “If blue is the new black, what’s the new blue?� But the internet has speeded up the process so much that “the minute we spot a trend we have got about 4 seconds to tell our client said Buckingham.

Youth intelligence is now part of a broader CAA – owned group that claims a worldwide net work of 15000 correspindebts alerting clients to new trends. It also runs a “trend school� offering “an intensive immersion into the lives of Gen Xers (now in their 30s) and Yers (in their 20s)�