The need to own: What drives us to line up for the latest iPhone?

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Apple’s release of its iPhone 5 had lines around the block at all four of its Manhattan Apple Stores, but it was by no means the only time there have been long lines of people in New York City trying to seize on a hot trend.  Think Cronuts, Air Jordans, Ramen Burgers and Beard Papa.  What’s behind the need to feel first in a sure trend?  The answer is psychological as well as social.

“There’s just something exciting about being in the know,” said Nancy Sherr, a denizen of the hotbed of hotness in red hot New York, SoHo.  “It’s just interesting,” she said.  “It’s fun!”

The self-described tech trend follower said that her assessment applies to a variety of products, but she spoke with PIX11 News specifically because of the lines outside, down the block and around the corner at every NYC Apple store for the release of the new iPhone.

Andre Rodriguez was one of the luckier people in line at the SoHo Apple store.  He’d waited in line for just two hours in order to receive an inventory ticket — a guarantee in writing that he would receive a phone.   He then had to wait at least another hour to buy his new phone.

His ticket also indicated that the most popular colors and models were sold out, but at least Rodriguez would get something in return for his patience.  And money.

He told PIX11 News that he intuitively wouldn’t choose to wait in a line for a new product, but that he’d learned his lesson from a previous, similar situation.

“The last iPhone that came out, there was a line for two months,” said Rodriguez,  “so I figured I might as well get [the new phone] on day one.”

Related to all of this is brand loyalty, as demonstrated by Mark Godbolt, who PIX11 News encountered as he exited the SoHo Nike store.  From his Air Jordans to his running pants, t-shirt and backpack, he was dressed literally head to toe in Nike products, and he’s developed an unorthodox strategy for purchasing items that are red hot.

“These came out in 2010,” Godbolt said as he pointed to his bright white Air Jordans with jet black trim.  “But years later, when [other people’s shoes] are dirty, I bring mine out to really get noticed.”

It’s a strategy of being the latest to roll out a new item, literally. For him, being really late on a trend is its own version of trendsetting.  We did say it was unorthodox.

Behind any form of trendsetting, trend following and sacrificing time and money to be in vogue is psychology.  Kathryn Smerling, PhD, said that while the reasons are numerous and complex for wanting and obtaining particular popular items, the motivation behind those reasons can be explained fairly simply.

“It’s a matter of building up self-esteem,” Smerling said.  “It’s looking at what you have from the outside, rather than the inside.”

She said that buying a bright red sports car or loyally following a particular rock band are further examples of this, and that doing so is not unhealthy.  That is, it’s not unhealthy as long as a person doesn’t have a persistent need to be first in line for every new product.

Probably the healthiest approach to pursuing new labels observed by PIX11 News in SoHo came from the Muller Family, who were visiting the Tri-state from suburban Dusseldorf, Germany.  They were walking out of the Nike Store minutes after they’d gone in, when PIX11 encountered them.

“It was just to look for the newest shoes,” said Nicole Muller, who then referred to the area’s largest outlet shopping center.  “Now we’ll go to Woodbury and buy them there.”

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