London, the coolest European city according to Belgian Gen Y'ers

London is the coolest European city (36%) according to Belgian youngsters; Paris (24%) is in second place just before Barcelona (21%). Only 8% of Belgian youngsters considered Brussels to be “cool”. Compared with other countries, the Belgian youth appears to be much less proud of their own capital. Amsterdam for example was considered cool by one out of five Dutch youngsters. For Paris and London, this was three out of five youngsters. These are the results of a recent global Gen Y study.

But what is so cool about London?

First, a high degree of “authenticity”. London is a genuinely cosmopolitan city. Moreover, it is a constantly changing city, so you get the feeling that something is always happening.
In this society of abundance, where young people have a plethora of affordable choices in the field of urban nightlife, it is the authenticity and proximity to a city that makes the difference. London is around the corner, and yet so much cooler than Belgian cities. It’s not only the English language and the true melting pot of cultures but also a city that continues to reinvent itself constantly. London is not only the home of many popular film and pop stars, and a place where new bands are born, but also the birthplace of the newest shopping and entertainment trends. It is a cosmopolitan city that still feels very cosy and authentically British. London has also been in the news regularly lately. The survey was conducted prior to the riots, which therefore certainly did not affect the results. Earlier there was the positive buzz surrounding the wedding of Kate and Prince William and with the upcoming Olympic Games, the city remains on the radar.
Together with some Belgian youngsters, in early September 2011 we set out in London to discover what it is that makes this city so cool and authentic to them. The youngsters were asked to spend the day taking photos of things they regarded as real and fake.

Shops determine the coolness of a city

Besides the tourism factor of a large city, it is mainly the local shops and brands that make a city unique. For Generation Y (aged between 15 and 30 years), shopping is one of the top five leisure activities. For 1 out of 5 it is even the number one form of entertainment.
When shopping, they look for brands that match their interests, passions and lifestyle. They therefore desire to have the same bond with brands and stores as the bond they have with their friends. Together with the Belgian youngsters, we determined three ways for shops to build up such a bond and be regarded as ‘cool’.
The origins and history of a brand teaches young people something about the integrity of the brand: to what extent the brand remains true to its origins and DNA. Think for example of the 125th anniversary campaign by Coca-Cola or the old lockers in Adidas shops in which the entire history of the brand was explained by way of legendary models. This approach does however have to be credible and authentic to this critical young generation, and this is where regional claims sometimes lose their way… ‘Real fresh New York Pizza’ in London? ‘Australian Homemade ice cream’ in Brussels? The youth of today see right through such false marketing approaches.
Allow customers to feel, touch and try. The Apple Store in London (the largest in the world) where everyone gets the opportunity and space to try things out is a good example of this. Hamleys toy store also always provides a fun and playful atmosphere where products can be tried out. When young people are permitted to touch and try something out for themselves, they automatically gain confidence in that which is being sold.
Shops and brands should help make it easier and quicker for young people to make choices in a climate of product overload. Shops that provide an overall picture of their offer at a glance and which do not come across as disorderly get extra points for “coolness”. A good example of this is the skate street wear shop Vans, whose entire range is represented by a single recognisable shoe sole. Gen Y is the most over-stimulated generation ever. They have had TVs and games consoles in their bedrooms since childhood, and receive an SMS from their friends every 5 minutes. Although we call this generation stimulus junkies, they would sometimes like to find some peace and quiet and make simple choices. ‘Less is more ‘, this is something one of the most popular brands of Generation Y, Apple, has known all along.
Want to find out more about the likes and dislikes of Generation Y? Visit

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