People are buying products that reflect aspirations to lead – and become – part of a cool lifestyle, with the iPod becoming a product that offers consumers the chance to transform, reports market research group Datamonitor.

A report in Australia's The Age uses Apple to exemplify this phenomenon, because "cool hunters" (the armies of researchers who track buying habits of young people) say Apple has become one of the coolest companies around, thanks to its iPod and the iTunes Music Store.

Apple's focus on the youth market has attracted some criticism. Media Week senior editor Mike Butcher suggested: "Targeting youth makes sense from a prime-marketing perspective but because the iPod is not the cheapest player around, this would suggest the market is actually a bit older."

Datamonitor's suggests: "The biggest myth about coolness is that it's all about youth".

"Although consumer priorities change with age, the desire to be seen to be consuming the right products and fit in is timeless," it said.

The youth market could yet be lucrative for Apple. AdAge editor Scott Donaton told Macworld: "These ads appear to be aimed at a narrow group, but it's a group where there is the most opportunity. Young people are the largest purchasers of music and, in recent years, are the ones more likely to have used illicit sites to download music free.

The Age report concludes: "Of course, the problem with coolness is that, by definition, it's the opposite of being mainstream; and that can keep the brand small."