The Twinsters Of Trend

Just think of the focus groups, surveys, and Madison Avenue “cool hunters” that have been a mainstay for advertising agencies since the 1920s. (Don Draper, however, might just love Edopter!) And there’s Faith Popcorn, a former ad agency creative director, who’s been “brailling the culture” for trends since 1974, when she started her New York-based marketing consulting firm BrainReserve. She is still recognized as America’s trend expert, and has predicted the failure of New Coke, the demand for more home shopping services, and the popularity of MySpace long before bloggers buzzed about it. In 2005, Lowe Worldwide, an ad agency owned by New York-based Interpublic Group, created a division called Counsel that collected data from surveys to 500 “leading-edge” consumers, from magazine editors to DJs, to try to figure out what was going to happen next in pop culture. Web sites like Technorati, BlogPulse, and Digg have also been a boon for marketers to check out what people are saying about the latest products and trends.

But as ad agencies and brands become frustrated by moldy research methods and countless data options, they’re looking for new ways to stay ahead of the game, and the Edopter guys hope they can carve out a niche where small to midsize companies will come to them as a resource that brings together all the data, from opinions to blog buzz to statistics, and help them make decisions about where to open a new shop or find out what other stuff their customers like.

“A lot of these services you can get now, you’re buying these trend reports like weekly reports or monthly reports,” Mr. Rosenberg explained. “In our case, you can get a hands-on, real-time feel for what people are saying and where it’s going instead of having to wait for some editorialized version of a month-old trend or something.”

Both Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Thompson’s moms have signed up for Edopter. Mr. Thompson’s mom was disappointed when her trend, Coldwater Creek, a clothing brand marketed to suburban ladies, stayed among the lower-ranking trends, like World of Warcraft and “Men Having Babies” (an idea).

“I laughed at it at first, I mean, Coldwater Creek?” Mr. Thompson said. “But then I thought, for her and people her age—she’s in her 50s—personalized Internet shopping that remembers your size and stuff you really like, it’s big. We want that information available for a company that might be interested.”

That’s why each trend has its own “in-depth” profile based on the site’s data. According to Edopter, Red Bull Cola is popular among 25-to-30-year-olds who live in New York. A graph on Edopter’s Red Bull page displays how the trend has grown over the past week and month. Statistics display where Red Bull ranks (91 out of 565 trends, tied with Puppies and Jott.com) and how many Edopters have signed onto the trend. (At its all-time high: 21. Now: just 9.) Users can also check out “who’s in” to the trend, with links to other Edopters’ profiles and what other trends they like. They can also subscribe to that trendcaster’s profile with the “following” feature. Who knows? Maybe Edopter will be like Jdate for trendcasters!

“The idea is to put all of this data into a visual, easy-to-understand experience,” Mr. Thompson said. Eventually, the Edopter boys want even more elaborate trend portfolios. All of the data, from Edopter’s statistics to Internet buzz, will be displayed on a map and a timeline to illustrate when and how the trend grew, along with the added bonus of Internet users all over the world giving updates on the “state of the trend” in real time. Neat.

 

MR. ROSENBERG’S APARTMENT serves as Edopter’s home base and office for their company, One Blue Brick. They often find themselves working at all hours of the night, including weekends. As the boys “tinker in the garage,” as Mr. Rosenberg puts it, they are continually worried about running out of money. Edopter currently generates minimal ad revenue. Its big moneymaker, the Showcase, needs more partners, but they might not attract them without more users.

They’ve been searching for an investor since the site launched, with no luck. Mr. Rosenberg explained that Edopter has been a “tough sell” to New York venture capitalists.

“We feel like we’re really a New York company because we’re not a West Coast Silicon Valley, zeroes and ones, hard-core Internet company,” he said. “We’re a New York media company, we’re kind of this hybrid blend. It’s not just a Web site; it’s a brand.

“New York is starting to prove itself as this savvy Internet place, but it’s kind of like they’re that middle child of the West Coast,” he explained. “There’s a bone to pick, and people might not want to take a chance. We feel like we need to prove ourselves.”

Even if Edopter doesn’t find investing or doesn’t catch on (“in their wildest dreams,” they’d be as big as Facebook, Mr. Rosenberg said), they have no plans of returning to the cubicle life anytime soon (although they wouldn’t mind having a few glittering desks at an office space outside of Mr. Rosenberg’s apartment). In the meantime, they’ll be joining the other Edopters, scoping out the New York City streets for the next new trend. They don’t have to travel too far. At Bar Pitti, just across the street from Mr. Rosenberg’s apartment building, Samantha Ronson and her squeeze Lindsay Lohan have been spotted lunching recently. This time, no black nails. Just bright red ones.

greagan@observer.com

The Twinsters Of Trend