In advertising jargon, the alpha puppy is the cool kid who does everything first: the first one to rip their jeans on purpose, or wear their backpack on one shoulder instead of both, or what-have-you.
Not quite the same as an early adopter—that kid spots and adopts the trend while it’s just getting started, whereas the alpha puppy does it first.
“That sounds like me!” you say. “I’ve always been different from the other kids!” But honey, unless you have the money or the magnetism, you’re just a garden-variety weirdo.
The alpha puppy is likely to be an "it" girl (or boy): charismatic, attractive, creative, possibly rich and famous, definitely on the A-list. But this week’s alpha puppy could just as likely be a marginalized youth from the ghetto. As long as we get something new and sexy.
The alpha puppy is the trendsetter, the innovator, the one cool-hunting advertising scouts want pictures of, the one called upon to endorse products, the one companies send their products to for free, hoping the alpha puppy will be seen wearing their stuff.
Since marketing to teens requires the selling of “cool,” marketers must rush from one alpha puppy to the next, discarding them once everyone in the mainstream has adopted the trend.
But happily, when the day comes that we are all alpha puppies, there will be no more youth culture marketing.