Nike's Hunt for Cool

Big brands often rely on "coolhunters" to "scour the globe's streets, stores, clubs and hidden haunts picking up clues as to what's hot, what's next. ... At Nike, the drive to recruit under-the-radar influencers like [Los Angeles tattoo artist] Mr. Cartoon is on the rise and a key part of the company's strategy." Nike CEO Mark Parker "has moved to aggressively link Nike with those who can help maintain the company's standing among what he calls the 'influencers of influencers'. ... In addition to Mr. Cartoon, Mr, Parker has fostered Nike collaborations with a New York graffiti artist named Lenny Futura, the industrial designer Marc Newson and a pair of Brazilian muralists known as Os Gemeos." Not everyone welcomes Nike's coolhunting. "Designer Steve 'Birdo' Guisinger, owner of a small but influential Santa Cruz, Calif., retailer called Consolidated Skateboards, painted three wheel-less skateboard 'decks' with images that lampooned Nike's attempts to craft a more street-smart image. The board depicting Mr. Parker shows him in a T-shirt with flame tattoos running up one arm and a chauffeured white limousine waiting behind him."