Cool today, gone tomorrow?

As a basis for my book How Cool Brands Stay Hot and based on years of youth experience and quantitative Gen Y research, InSites Consulting developed the CRUSH Branding model. A model summarizing the five aspects that are key in developing branding strategies with Generation Y.

  • Coolness: What does it mean to be a cool brand for this generation? How do you achieve a cool status and why should you bother?
  • Realness: Brand authenticity is a key aspect that discerns long-term winning brands from fads. With Generation Y, authenticity is attained in another way than the traditional approach of claiming origin, heritage or history.
  • Uniqueness: A clear positioning based on a sustainable brand DNA will increase impact among youngsters. This generation is craving for anchor brands in a fragmented world. But how do you assert uniqueness when most innovations are copied within a couple of months’ time?
  • Self-identification with the brand: Gen Y’ers will only feel emotionally connected with your brand when it feels like a friend to them. This implies that your brand should reflect their diverse lifestyles. A better understanding of their identity construction will make your brand fit in with youths’ lives while embracing diversity.
  • Happiness: Popular youth brands know how to leverage from positive emotions and avoid arousing negative ones.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more insights on each of these components based on discussions we had with millennials from over 15 countries around the globe in our international Gen Y community.
Today we kick off with Coolness.
Coolness today surpasses its historic links with resistance or rebel attitudes. For this youth generation, cool brands are attractive and appealing brands which are popular in their immediate social circle and bring a sense of novelty, surprise or originality. For companies, it means they have to reinvent themselves continuously, not by looking at what other players are doing but by developing from within the heart of the company or brand. This grassroots thinking has nothing to do with chasing coolness but it’s about creating and maintaining relevance for the stimulus-addicted Generation Y. In our global Gen Y community we discussed what youth see as cool places, brands and stuff to understand what the foundations of this brand relevance are for them. We found eight different aspects of coolness with youth around the world. I’ll share 5 today, more details are available on SlideShare.

1. Togetherness

Young people are even more social than previous generations. Brands or places that are capable of connecting youth socially will have a competitive edge. After all, life is all about meeting friends and new like-minded people and sharing moments and experiences. The coolest places and moments are those where friends are involved and they can build shared memories. Togetherness can refer to partying hard but also to relaxing with a movie, chilling at a beach bar or just hanging out in the city and shopping.

2. International feeling

Youngsters feel they are citizens of the globe. In Istanbul for instance Turkish youth goes to Club Babylon to watch live gigs of musicians from all over the world. Brands that radiate this cosmopolitan feeling will be considered to be cooler. The fact that H&M has shops in Asia and the US makes the brand more appealing, because if youth is buying H&M in Tokyo too, it’s a guarantee for Europeans that it is a truly cool brand.

3. Story-generating

The stimulation junkie generation is always looking for great stories and memories. Memorable events or experiences will set the tongues wagging. While New York is the city that never sleeps, Shanghai is so fundamentally weird that you stumble upon little treasures every time you visit the city. It is just one big story generator, you never run out of little things that amuse, and so you never ever get bored. Cool brands regularly bring new stories and generate conversations by their actions and point of view. This generation of consumers do not passively receive brand stories told by companies anymore, they co-create the meaning of brands. The Keller Fay Group found that youth have on average 145 conversations a week about brands. That is twice the rate of adults (Hein, 2007).

4. Facilitating life and delivering experiences

One respondent explained how the “Chrome to Phone” app on her Android Nexus S mobile made her life easier. The app automatically sends websites, phone numbers and Google roadmaps from an online website to your own mobile phone with one single click. The technology and “always too busy” generation is keen on innovations that help them organize their life, do things better and more easily and save time in a seamless way. Having the opportunity to customize the product itself and having it just the way you personally prefer it, is another aspect of cool brands experiences. In the Cereality bar in San Francisco for instance customers choose from their favourite cereal brands and customized toppings (nuts, fruits, candy, raisins, chocolates…) and type of milk to create their own perfect breakfast. The staff is dressed in a pyjama uniform to make the experience complete.

5. Unexpected

As mentioned before, Gen Y likes positive surprises. Brand and shop concepts that are built on a great creative idea like The Icecreamists, a pop-up ice cream shop linked with Selfridges in London, are good examples of creating unexpected experiences. The shop is targeting adult ice cream fans and has a sexy/kinky interior and waitresses. They have been known to create buzz with Viagra ice cream (not really using Viagra as an ingredient but claiming to have similar positive effects for consumers) and the Baby Gaga taste, supposedly made from breast milk (and banned after 3 hours). A fusion of different styles also enhances the feeling of unexpectedness. The Burgermeister burger bar in Berlin is located in a former art deco toilet stall under a bridge and is a fast food burger bar. People reclaiming the urban space in global cities, for instance by using a scaffolding in Berlin as a balcony to enjoy the nice weather, street dancing in Paris or guerrilla knitting in several cities, are an unexpected surprise for youngsters and therefore deemed ‘cool’.
Keep an eye on our blog the coming weeks for the next 4 dimensions of our CRUSH Branding Model.

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