Geek Chic Culture

The Rise of Geek Pop Culture

By Staff Writer
In January 21, 2014

Advertising is not just about selling products and services, but recognizing trends to connect with consumers to participate in and influence today’s culture. We routinely follow the attitudes and behaviors of the Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial and iGen segments as they journey through their life stages. Beyond these generational groups, an unsuspecting segment has emerged and established itself as a major cultural influence: Geeks.

Over the last three decades, geeks have risen from a group of unfashionable, socially inept techies to fashion trend setters (“geek chic,” e.g., wearable technology), surpassing the status of sports heroes and gaining the adulation of mainstream culture. As a highly connected, influential group, they have become very important to marketers. They are the new cool.

Labeling themselves as “geeks” in the ’90s so as not to be confused with “nerds,” they are still obsessed with that distinction today. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs (and, of course, Albert Einstein) … all geeks, very intelligent, counter-culture people with obsessions. Geeks like to know a lot about what they love and it all started with a love of computer technology. They were valuable IT people even before the internet, but not especially liked. The early “computer-geeks” were necessary to business, but no one really wanted to associate with them. The Internet set them free. Their knowledge on how technology and computers work ultimately gave them the power to shape culture, and the rest is history.

Today, geeks would define themselves by the unbridled, dedicated passion they have for hobbies (collecting, comics, gaming), entertainment (sci-fi, Star Wars, Game of Thrones) and a meaningful academic or social pursuit well beyond computers, including the arts and sciences. Their enthusiasm for these interests defines who they are and they are not shy (like nerds) in sharing their passions.

Geeks have always felt good about themselves inwardly, but today even non-geeks know, appreciate and are influenced by this cultural segment. A recent survey of Americans, that included geeks and non-geeks alike, revealed the following:

  • More than half (58%) of respondents in 2013 define geeks as extremely intelligent – up from 45% in 2011
  • A person of the opposite sex with intelligence and passionate engagement with a hobby is four times more desirable than an attractive, fashionably-dressed person
  • 68% said they would date a geek – perhaps due to 67% identifying geeks as loyal
  • 76% said geeks are hard working and a greater percentage of geeks are employed than their non-geek counterparts
  • The label “geek” is preferred over the label “jock” by a two-to-one margin

This once obscure, background segment is moving to the forefront in our culture, gaining new disciples every day. With over 20 million viewers, today’s top-rated sitcom is The Big Bang Theory. Like Friends and Seinfeld from the past, the show portrays today’s social makeup through a mix of geeks who, while validating the new power of brains over brawn, still feel like awkward outsiders. The show’s growing viewership, along with Geek Pride Day, further demonstrates the development and mainstreaming of geek pop culture.

Many of today’s marketers are focused on Millennials, as they represent long-term customers for companies that can establish their brands with them. Geeks are primarily a sub-segment of Millennials and they are very influential and predictive of where all Millennials and iGen cohorts are heading. While some pop culture trends come and go very quickly, Geeks have been around a long time and their attitudes and behaviors are here to stay. They need to be added to your target audience conversation if they haven’t been already.

Wish you were a Geek? Maybe you are. Take this brief quiz to find out. If you are, you might be interested in The Geek’s Guide To Dating. If not, geek chic may be right for you.

Staff Writer

So who is this mysterious staff writer? Could be anyone really, as long as they meet our very strict criteria. 1) Worked with us in one capacity or another. 2) Have something pretty interesting to say. 3) Want to use our blog to say it. See? Told ya they were strict!