I am well aware that writing a post about ‘cool’ is fraught with danger as it is such a subjective topic and is the topic of annual contemplation amongst cool hunters, psychologists and people way cooler than myself (that’s not that hard by the way :). Firstly, I’m no cool hunter, just an interested observer of youth culture and how brands are trying to stay relevant and meaningful in todays social world.
Having said that, I thought I’d put together some observations of brand behaviours I consider ‘cool’ in the youth marketing space. Here are 10 behaviours in no particular order that brands I think are cool are displaying. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed :)
- BELIEVE in something bigger than yourself, an ideal young people can belong to
Love her or loathe her, pop princess Lady Gaga is cool. She stands for something bigger than herself and has complete conviction in her beliefs, which young people gravitate towards. Her activism comes through in her lyrics/music videos giving her ‘little monsters’ something to belong to.
- Leverage MYTHOLOGY and MYSTIQUE in your brand narrative
One of my favourite Aussie brands is custom motorcycle brand Deus Ex Machina. They do a brilliant job of building an interesting, discoverable story around the brands origins. To me, they feel mysterious and never ever over market themselves. For youth brands, less is more in terms of the storytelling.
- Be ORIGINAL, creating tales and crafted cult
It’s obvious, but originality is and always will be a key pillar of cool. A recent campaign by K Swiss really caught my attention. It’s polarising, but that’s what makes it cool. To launch their Tubes shoe, they totally took the piss out of the corporate side of sport endorsement. They used Kenny Powers and crafted a highly engaging tale that’s generated a cult following in the US. Check it out here
- CREATE and REMIX CULTURE
Indie hipster brand, Converse do a great job of creating culture through their co-opting of hip hop music culture. An oldie, but a goodie.
- Enable STIMULATION junkies to capture and share their lives
Make no mistake, Gen Y and Millenials are stimulation junkies. Boys and girls alike. They are hardwired for risk taking behaviour. So brands like Go Pro, have tapped into this behaviour and been the enabler for self expression. In the world of action sports, Go Pro cameras on your helmet are the must have item. They are becoming mainstream but still remain super cool. They are the perfect compliment to the Red Bull culture.
- Give youth genuine OWNERSHIP, appealing to the core and potential fans
I think it’s such bullshit when people say cool brands have to be scarce. Brands like Modern Warfare 3 are perfect examples of a game which is appealing to both hardcore gamer and novice gamer like myself. Check out their recent epic spot here
- EMPOWER youth to do more, be more
Youth movement, One Young World is an annual summit where the leaders of tomorrow start leading, bring the best and brightest minds together to talk about stuff that really matters.
- Play a genuine role in making a SUBCULTURE better
Many big brands try and co-opt a culture and piggy back on a trend. This is a major no no. Footlocker with their Sneakerpedia social wiki is genuinely making sneaker culture better by helping peeps keep on top of their sneaker game. Check it out here.
- AUTHENTICITY in being real and doing stuff, not preaching
It’s also noting, that I don’t believe ‘cool’ is reserved just for the fringe brands for the super early adopters. Thanks to social media ,cool is now diffused to mainstream so much quicker than say five years ago, so the incubation period for ‘cool’ is alot shorter. I also believe that it has and always will be typically the younger creative class that start cultural cool which brands then often co-opt.
- Help young people be more GENEROUS to their friends
In the social economy brands that help me do something of value for a friend are the brands are perceived as cool.
Would welcome thoughts on other brand behaviours people think cool brands are displaying.