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Apple's diminishing 'cool' image is a serious problem

A youth-oriented marketing group says Apple is losing its cool factor. Empirical evidence doesn't say so.

By Andy Patrizio on Tue, 01/15/13 - 3:10pm.

Conventional wisdom says there's no quicker way for something to lose its cool than for a teenager's parents to also like it. Whatever it is – music, a TV show, technology – when kids see their parents like something, it's over faster than you can say it’s "so yesterday."

Apple is a company that always had the cool factor, as opposed to Microsoft's necessity factor. You needed Microsoft – Windows and Office, mostly, but there was also Visual Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server, among others—but you didn't need Apple. You just wanted it. MacBooks are the laptop of choice for the conspicuous consumer at your local coffee shop. White ear buds dangle from half the people in the gym; the only question is, are they using an iPod or iPhone?

But that cool may be disappearing. With the dissolution of Steve Jobs's reality distortion field, and some serious missteps since his passing, Apple is coming down to earth and the question now is how hard the landing will be.

Buzz Marketing Group, which focuses on younger demographics, found in a recent survey that Apple's ubiquity has soured the market for kids who need their parents to buy the phone for them.

"Teens are telling us Apple is done," Tina Wells, CEO of the youth marketing agency Buzz Marketing Group told Forbes. "Apple has done a great job of embracing Gen X and older [Millennials], but I don’t think they are connecting with Millennial kids. [They’re] all about Surface tablets/laptops and Galaxy."

There's a lot to dissect in that quote, so let's get started. Wells tells me that for the longest time, the post-Millennial generation rated Apple at the top of its want list. More than 90% of kids surveyed wanted an Apple product, but only 30% actually got one.

Around 2010, with the introduction of the iPad, things began to shift downward. Only 60% of kids surveyed wanted an Apple product. Apple had been around so long, been so ubiquitous and hadn't really done anything new that it was getting stale, she said.

The bloom is far from leaving Apple's rose. I live in the more suburban part of Orange County. There are three high schools within five miles of me. So when I go out and about, I see an overwhelming number of teens, and they all have iPhones. I thought San Francisco was iPhone Central, but it has nothing on the OC. I am a complete oddball sporting a Lumia phone (actually, the "sporting a Lumia" part is unnecessary). The few times I have seen a Galaxy S III, it was used by an adult. That said, at least one market research report says Samsung's market share doubled in 2012 to 46%