BY MARTHA IRVINE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
CHICAGO (AP) — They are lined up in the freezing rain, waiting patiently, stubbornly. All night. All for a few pairs of shoes.
Sean Rivera is among the 60 or so die-hards on this sidewalk along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district. He looks a little crazy, smiling and squinting through fogged glasses.
But the 28-year-old college counselor doesn’t care. He’s used to being judged like that, used to “being criticized by peers and family members and neighbors,” he says, laughing.
It’s all part of the life of “sneakerheads,” people who spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on shoes, many of which carry the name of professional basketball stars, past and present.
Chicagoans proudly point out that it started here with Michael Jordan and his Nike Air Jordan brand.
Rivera figures he has about 50 pairs of sneakers at home in his closet. His parents bought him his first pair of Air Jordans when he was a toddler. He carries a picture on his cell phone of his pint-sized self, wearing those very shoes. “You can see the striking resemblance,” he jokes, holding the phone with the photo next to his cheek.
In the 1990s, he and many fledgling sneakerheads used to scrape together whatever money they had and then cut class to go buy the latest pair of Jordans. Back then, news reports occasionally surfaced, telling of people who were mugged for their shoes.
Today, that fervor is growing again, fueled by online social networking, and by shoemakers such as Nike that now often limit the number of pairs they release to generate more interest.
Jesus Estrella, a blogger who has become a self-made sneaker guru on YouTube, filmed one recent melee outside a mall in Orlando, Fla.
“This shoe game officially has gone bananas,” Estrella, who is known as “JStar” in the sneakerhead community, said as he watched police arrive and then begin sending people home.
That riot and similar ones in other cities were so raucous that some stores postponed their release of new shoes. The most sought after that night was the Nike “Galaxy Foamposite,” a $225 pair of shoes made popular by former NBA player Penny Hardaway.
You don’t always know which shoe is going to be “the shoe” of the ones that are released, Estrella says.
But often, the shoes that go the quickest are those that are “reissued” — new versions of old standards, including Air Jordans and the Nike “Mag” sneakers worn by the character Marty McFly in the movie “Back to the Future.”
Consignment shops and online auctions have seen some of those shoes resell for thousands of dollars, while others sit on shelves longer and sell for less. A pair of original Air Jordans in good condition — bought by the most serious collectors — can sell today for $4,000 to $5,000. “Back to the Future” Mags, originally released to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Parkinson’s research, go for that much, or more.
Meanwhile, Rivera recently sold a pair of LeBron James “South Beach” Nikes, which he bought for $170 in late 2010, for $900.
“People try to finance their (shoe) habit,” says LaVelle “V-DOT” Sykes, who owns a Chicago shop called Overtime, where he and his staff sell sneakers on consignment.
“They’ll say, ‘I’m going to ‘rock’ one pair and sell two,” he says, referring to people who wear one pair and try to find buyers for the others.
“You see moms, pops, aunties, all kinds of people, across all color lines.”
Often, though, sneakerheads are young men in their teens, 20s and 30s, many of whom now use the Internet to show off their “kicks,” as they call their shoes.
And companies like Nike are using that instant, word-of-mouth communication to their benefit, marketing experts say.
“When I started in this business back in the ’60s, there was no such thing as a blogger,” says Michael Carberry, a former advertising executive who is now a marketing professor at American University in Washington.
Now, he says, bloggers are a key advertising component: “They talk it up: ‘Did you hear about the new Nike that’s coming out? . You gotta be there.’”
Limiting the supply — a tactic sometimes called “artificial scarcity” — also fuels the demand in an age when young people are bombarded with products and looking for ways to stand out.
“It’s harder and harder to make yourself different and distinct. Everybody has access to the same stuff,” says Gary Rudman, president of California-based GTR Consulting, which tracks the habits of young people.
“They’re constantly trying to update the brand called ‘Me.’”
They do it with anything from clothes to electronic devices or even video game skills. For sneakerheads, it’s all about showing off your shoes to gain credibility with your peers, he says.
Dina Mayzlin, an associate professor of marketing at Yale University, refers to this dynamic as “social signaling” — associating yourself with a hard-to-get brand to build status.
So companies are, in turn, limiting access to a product or service to create a buzz and reputation of coolness.
She and her colleagues have, for instance, studied Google and Spotify, an online music service — both of which have initially made some services available to consumers by invitation only.
“It’s a bit of a puzzle — why would the company early on try to slow down the adoption of their product?” she says.
She found that the goal for Google, with Google+, or Spotify was to eventually try to draw in even more members who wanted what the initial members had.
When you factor in what it costs to design and promote the limited edition shoes, Nike may not make as much money on them as it would if they were mass produced, Carberry says.
But the publicity they generate is priceless for the brand. “The buzz is what works for them and it just enhances the aura of Nike,” he says — and, in turn, generates more overall shoe sales to those who might not be able to afford a limited edition pair, but still want to attach themselves to the brand.
Because of the chaos it has created, some have questioned whether Nike has gone too far with its limited edition shoes and hyped releases. A Nike spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the company is looking for ways to avoid the mayhem created by recent shoe releases. But in February, the company did issue a statement stressing the importance of “consumer safety and security.”
To cut back on crowds, some stores already hand out a limited number of tickets to consumers before a shoe release. Without a ticket, you can’t enter the store.
Estrella, the blogger and YouTube sneakerhead, says there is little doubt that the recession is contributing to the havoc because more people are looking for ways to make a fast buck. But he thinks most sneakerheads are in it for more than that.
It’s about fashion and sports, he says. It’s about friendship and having a common interest.
“For me, it’s like I’m wearing art on my feet,” he says.
It’s much the same for the sneakerheads who lined up in Chicago, and who speak with pride about their extensive shoe collections.
Some talk with a bit of disdain about newer sneakerheads, whom they accuse of only being in it to try to make money. But Sykes, the consignment shop owner who is a longtime sneakerhead himself, doesn’t.
“Americans are opportunists. This is the land of making something from nothing. And then people complain about it?” he says.
“Would you rather that a kid resell shoes, or sell drugs?
“I’d rather he stand in line and sell shoes.”
By Tim Barker
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
There was a time when Sarah Truckey had a close relationship with her blog. The St. Louis-based freelance writer visited it every couple of days, sharing stories and thoughts with anyone willing to read them.
But today, the intervals between visits are growing longer as Truckey, 25, increasingly turns to social networking site Twitter to talk to the world. She likes the way Twitter limits entries to 140 characters, forcing her to keep those missives short.
“The blog posts wouldn’t necessarily get me in trouble. But I would end up revealing more than I should,” Truckey said.
While not ready to abandon the blog altogether, Truckey does represent a growing trend in the world of blogging. Young people just aren’t as interested in them as they once were. And it’s yet another example of the way rapid changes in technology — and the way we use it — can transform you from trendy to dinosaur seemingly overnight.
MySpace? Out. Facebook? In. Using a cell phone for phone calls? Out. Using it to send a text message? In. E-mail? Outside of scammers and spammers, does anyone use it?
OK, there’s a bit of hyperbole there. But it’s clear we live in a world where our ways of communicating are changing so fast that it’s virtually impossible, particularly for older adults, to stay current.
And certainly there are times when keeping up can be critical. As the parent of virtually every cell phone-toting teenager or young adult knows, you learn to text if you want to keep in touch.
Still, there’s no reason to obsess over every new communication development, said Dean Terry, director of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas. Some basic familiarity with social networking and texting may be all you need to get by. It’s not as if the old ways will just die out.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep up with everything,” Terry said. “We still have radio. We still have plays. And we still have novels.”
In so many ways, it is the nation’s army of teenagers and young adults that’s deciding for the rest of us what’s cool and what’s not. Those decisions can, and often do, change quite quickly.
“Adults are always playing catch-up. And unfortunately, when we get there, (teens) may have already moved on,” said Gary Rudman, a California-based market researcher who specializes in teens.
Just look at what’s happened to blogging, an area that’s still growing in popularity with older Americans, just as it’s losing steam with the younger set.
The percentage of older adults — those over the age of 29 — who say they maintain a blog has increased from 7 percent to 11 percent since December 2007, according to a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Meanwhile the ranks of bloggers in the 18-29 age group fell from 24 percent to 15 percent during the same time frame.
The drop has been even greater among teen bloggers. In 2006, 28 percent of online teens said they blogged. Only 14 percent say the same thing today, according to Pew.
Social networking experts cite some pretty simple reasons for the decline of young bloggers.
Some suggest that it’s tied, at least partly, to the decline in popularity of My- Space, the one-time king of social networking. In recent years, social networkers have made a decided shift to Facebook, which puts more emphasis on short status updates and less emphasis on blogging.
“Because of what each site offers, that really changes what people do,” said Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist with Pew.
Others say blogging simply doesn’t match well with the preferred communication style of young people, who like quick exchanges via text message and Facebook status updates. Some even suggest that young people might have skipped blogs altogether if they had arrived at the same time texting was taking off. Many young people just don’t have time in their lives for blogs.
“We used to think of blogs as short little blips of commentary. But now they seem very long,” said Terry, from the University of Texas. “If you are updating your Facebook or Twitter all day, then in some ways you’ve gotten it all out. You’ve said everything you wanted to say.”
Some attribute the decline of blogging and MySpace — and anything else being abandoned by young people — to the desire of teens and young adults trying to carve out their own space.
Rarely are they happy to see that space infiltrated by parents and grandparents.
“As soon as it becomes too popular, they want to move on to something else,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor of communication at American University in Washington.
Not everyone buys that.
“That’s been the routine theory about why MySpace lost ground to Facebook,” said Steve Jones, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. A lot of adults are using Facebook now. And I don’t see younger people leaving in droves.”
And really, it’s not necessarily the end of the world even if the youngsters do run off to greener pastures.
Rebecca Hanes, 36, of St. Louis, has been blogging for five years. She actually has a pair of blogs, including one she describes as “a big ol’ bowl of soup” in terms of content.
Hanes shrugged off the news that young bloggers have been dropping left and right. She says she has no plans to abandon her own little slice of cyberspace: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s probably something I’ll always have.”
By Aisha Sultan
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Emily Tedford, 13, is having dinner with her parents at a Brazilian restaurant, and 20 of her closest friends know she has ordered the grilled pineapple and banana.
It’s just one of hundreds of text messages she’ll send tonight.
Emily, an A student in St. Charles, sends nearly 20,000 texts a month, as she has for the last two years since she got her phone. She is one of the übertexters, with the phone pad chronically attached to her thumbs.
Her parents, Paul and Rebecca Tedford, aren’t too concerned. They periodically monitor the texts on her phone to make sure it’s typical teenage chatter. If they find something inappropriate (such as when she posted questionable song lyrics on Facebook), they make her remove the post and issue a public apology. (They even had her write a report about the origin of said lyrics.) Of course, they subscribe to an unlimited texting phone plan.
They figure that even while sending more than 600 texts a day, Emily still keeps up with school, plays the drums and runs track. She clearly has plenty of friends, and a few of them also rack up more than 15,000 texts a month.
“For the most part, we have a really good kid,” Paul Tedford said.
They did have to take her to the doctor once when her wrists started hurting. It was tendinitis.
But are hundreds of texts a day the new normal? And because today’s tweens and teens would rather text than talk, what kind of adults will they grow up to become?
Among the teens who say they text, the average number of text messages they send and receive in a month is about 3,500, based on a query in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent report on children and media use. With the spread of smart phones and popularity of unlimited texting plans, use of text messaging has skyrocketed.
AT&T’s data from the third quarter of 2007 show that nearly 66 million subscribers sent 24 billion text messages. Two years later, in the most recent third quarter, about 82 million users sent 120 billion texts.
As parents of teens can attest, texting is frequently the easiest way to keep tabs, get a response and avoid hearing attitude. Some may lament the loss of personal contact, perhaps the demise of civility and an inability to fully experience a moment. But others point out that members of polite society in the late 1800s thought telephones ought to be installed in barns. They were considered just as intrusive and impersonal.
“It’s debatable to talk about what is a pathologized amount of texting,” said Amanda Lenhert, a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
There may be plenty of kids who send thousands of texts a month but are able to still talk to people, read a variety of things, get outside and do other activities, she said.
It may seem like a parody of a Sprint commercial, but many teens are most comfortable sharing their most intimate feelings through this shorthand language, according to Gary Rudman, chief executive officer of GTR Consulting, which offers trend reports on teens and technology.
When asked by GTR about the sort of things they prefer to text, one teen responded that she would rather text “when it’s something really sad or something not that important to talk about.” Another wrote: “Guys always break up with you on SMS (short message service). They don’t want to hear you cry.”
Emily agrees. “I think it’s easier to say anything with text messages,” she said. “You can’t stutter, it’s not as awkward-feeling. I feel more comfortable talking to people that way.”
It’s this avoidance of conflict and lack of human interaction that worries psychologists such as Sherry Turkle, director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is writing a book, “Together Alone: Sociable Robots, Digitized Friends and the Reinvention of Intimacy and Solitude,” to be published next year.
“You lose something if you don’t talk,” she said. Teens need to learn how to respond and pick up on verbal cues, how to spontaneously respond to questions without having to compose or construct a response and how to effectively handle confrontation.
“They don’t have that developmental skill,” she said.
In the last billing cycle, Emily used her phone to send 19,657 texts and spent 102 minutes talking on the phone. “And an hour of that was probably spent talking to me,” her mother said.
Turkle argues that there also are opportunity costs. What else would children be doing in the hours they are currently spending on text messaging? There is a value to stillness, which most children today cannot fathom, in taking an undistracted walk or looking out a window without constant vibrations from a phone interrupting their thoughts.
The teen years are critical in discovering one’s identity, she said. When the most common form of communication allows the child to construct an identity, compose the persona he wants to project, it stymies development, she said. It is a less authentic version of a teen’s self, she said.
She does not recommend taking away a cell phone. The trick is to look critically at how we behave with our phones.
“This is the communication device of their generation. Everyone has to live in (his or her) generation,” she said.
September 25th, 2009 by brand-e.biz
By Steve Mullins.
Teen feeling. Ambassatechs have become the bridge between companies trying to figure out the next big thing and parents seeking to determine which new piece of technology to buy, according to the gTrend Teen Report from US-based GTR Consulting.
Ambassatechs? They’re those trendsetting young consumers whose judgment and behavior are the best barometer of future technology adoption, the consultancy reckons. ”Today, adults take their technology cues from teens, whose ability to incorporate innovation into their lives far exceeds their parents’. Nothing may be more important to successfully engaging teens than understanding their role as Ambassatechs.”
However, in a recession, money is tight, forcing teens to become ‘Neo-Frugalists’. So, GTR rightly asks, how young consumers still manage to buy the latest techno-bling.
The answer? “Our research shows that instead of buying on impulse, today’s teens have become more value-driven consumers. If they’re interested in the hottest video game, they’re inclined to find a used copy. Many are now waiting for sales to make a purchase. Or they scour Craigslist, eBay and the rest of the web for a killer deal.” So, that means they’re innovating with old tech. Clever Neo-Frugalists, indeed.
Wait, there’s more. “Teens remain as elusive and contradictory as ever,” GTR says. (And they’re not kidding if these findings are anything to go by). But don’t worry, the consultancy has also identified a new teen social dynamic known as ‘Textual Feeling’. Before you ask, we’ll tell you that this phenomenon means that many teens routinely express their secret hopes, dreams and fears via social networking sites and online.
“In many ways, teens today are an open book,” says GTR. “Yet, most are conscientious about not posting telephone numbers, addresses, and other critical personal information on the web because they recognize the dangers. Our research, however, consistently shows that many teens feel it’s safer and more comfortable to engage peers through technology than in face-to-face interaction.”
We know just how they feel.
By Tim Barker
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
While technology plays some role in virtually every person’s life in this country, today’s teenagers face a world far different from that of previous generations.
They live in a time when the only true constant is change. That forces them to learn to adapt quickly to new devices and forms of communication, while also introducing new stresses into their lives. How they deal with it is the subject of a recent study by Gary Rudman, a California-based market researcher who specializes in kids and teens.
His company, GTR Consulting, recently completed its gTrend Teen Report, based on a survey of more than 800 teens, ages 13 to 18.
Rudman said the survey offers insights into the way teens view the technology that plays such a key role in their lives, particularly as they relate to things like music, relaxation and communication.
The increased portability of music has allowed teens to essentially create a soundtrack for their lives, with 60 percent of teens saying the spend at least two hours a day listening to music.
“Music has changed in terms of what it means to these guys. It’s not just background noise,” Rudman said.
Often, teens say they use music to sort of filter out the rest of the world, helping them to focus on tasks at hand.
But music players also represent one type of technology that teens turn to when they want to relax. Where older Americans might prefer to get away from technology, teens seek it out — spending time with video games, Web surfing and cell phones, Rudman said.
But perhaps one of the more interesting ways in which technology impacts the lives of teens is the way they interact with communication devices. Rudman’s study found that teens are more likely to communicate with friends through text messaging, social networking sites and instant messaging. Those three avenues represent at least 60 percent of the communication done by teens in the survey.
Rudman said the survey participants said they felt more comfortable, and much less inhibited, communicating through writing, rather than face-to-face or on the phone.
Tech-savvy teens have become the bridge between two worlds that absolutely need each other today: Companies trying to figure out the next big thing and parents seeking to determine which new piece of technology to buy. The gTrend Teen Report describes this new breed of teens as Ambassatechs, those trendsetting young consumers whose judgment and behavior are the best barometer of future technology adoption. Because of their comfort with technology, teens have become the household’s de facto experts on everything from personal computers and cell phones to digital cameras and television sets. The gTrend Teen Report found that one in three teens almost always helps their parents use the electronics they purchase; one in four advises them on what electronic products to buy. What’s startling about the Ambassatechs phenomenon is the reversal of roles. At the dawn of the Internet age, technology would trickle down to teens from their parents. Today, adults take their technology cues from teens, whose ability to incorporate innovation into their lives far exceeds their parents’. Nothing may be more important to successfully engaging teens than understanding their role as Ambassatechs.
For more insight about teens and their new responsibility as the gatekeepers of technology spending decisions at home, get the new gTrend Teen Report. Contact GTR Consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 415.713.7852.