Google Nexus, BlackBerry Torch, Microsoft Kin: Why Are Smartphone Ads Filled With Hipsters?

From Google to Microsoft to BlackBerry, why do smartphone-makers love hipster-themed marketing? And why don’t they get that the last thing hipsters like are other hipsters?


I nearly threw up during the new Nexus S commercial that Google released Monday. Not because the Nexus itself is gag-worthy–the phone actually looks pretty sleek–but because of the shaky camera work, drunk-and-stumbling POV, and disorientating jump-cuts. What might make some viewers dizzy, though, is the ad’s obvious pandering to the subculture known as hipsters.

Why do smartphone-makers love hipster-themed marketing?

Google isn’t the first to target the skinny-jean-and-flannel-clad demographic. BlackBerry focused on hipsters for the August release of its Torch 9800. Remember the San Francisco bike courier working his way around the city on his fixie–and claiming he calls the Torch his “future phone”?


Fashion isn’t the only hipster facet marketers are playing on. Music is just as important. For a slew of Palm commercials, we heard track after track of catchy indie tunes from bands like io echo and Passion Pit. Marketers seem to be searching for tunes bubbling among trendsetters, but not big enough for the mainstream to have heard yet. Interestingly, when searching for the phone commercials on YouTube, most of the comments are from consumers trying to figure out the song or artist.

And let’s not forget the most important rule of marketing to Williamsburg-style hipsters: endless euphoric and hazy revelry. Microsoft took this golden rule to heart when pushing out its failed Kin platform:


Still, these ads aren’t practicing a new formula. Marketers have always depended on young influentials to promote their products, and smartphone-makers seem convinced that hipsters are these young influentials. Are these ads effective? We doubt bike messengers in the Mission and indie bands in Brooklyn will be seduced by such explicit pandering. Besides, as one very popular humor website with a NSFW name knows, hipsters make a point of silently judging other hipsters.

Still, at least smartphone makers aren’t producing cringe-inducing youth culture-pandering ads as bad as this one, for Miracle Whip:

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.