Being Cool is Hot
It’s fascinating to watch companies trip over themselves to try to establish themselves as a “cool” brand. They do everything they can to put that “cool” stamp on their product and their company. I realize the value of being cool is nothing new in marketing but it seems to have been elevated (or should I say devolved) into a whole new level of mass consumption. I guess that thanks to the baby boomers who refuse to grow old, cool is now multi-generational. It used to just be in the realm of those twenty-somethings but now cool is ubiquitous, including in the marketing of cities.
I can’t help but wonder if everything is crowned cool, doesn’t that make the cool label pretty meaningless? I mean seriously, if we believed everything pitched on TV, you’d have to conclude that we are the consumate hip-hop nation. Stay cool, be cool, live cool, dream cool. Enough already. Manufactured cool has never been cool (think Richie Cunningham wearing Fonze’s leather jacket) and today we’re borderline psychotic in our quest for cool.
The thing is, stuff that is genuinely original, unique and unconventional is still cool. And adding funky music with neon colors to manufacture cool is still uncool but that’s what happening all around us. Look around:
Example 1. HP’s trying to be cool with a viral video and new ad campaign. From the New York Times:
(The FingerSkilz video) was revealed to be a “viral’’ advertisement from Hewlett-Packard, the leading edge of a new global campaign that aims to imbue H.P.’s machines with some of the coolness more commonly associated with Apple.
H.P. executives say the new campaign, which includes television and print advertising in addition to a variety of edgier approaches, is aimed at shaking up perceptions of the company as slightly stodgy, an image that has been reinforced by conservative corporate brand campaigns with themes like “everything is possible.’’
“It’s a quasi-social-networking site for teens designed to allow them to ‘express their individuality,’ yet it screens all content, tells parents their kids have joined and forbids users to e-mail one another. Oh, and it calls users ‘hubsters’ — a twist on hipsters that proves just how painfully uncool it is to try to be cool.”
Probably the best comment on this came from BL Ochman: “Watching big ad agencies (and corporations) trying to master new media is a lot like watching people who are having mid-life crises trying to look hip, cool and young by adopting the toys, tools, and language of youth. It’s rather pathetic.”
Example 3. McDonald’s tried to buy cool. From BBC News:
McDonald’s, the world’s biggest fast food chain, is desperate to keep in with the youth market and saw hip hop as the key to a piece of the action. Last year, they offered to pay artists to rap about Big Macs. The deal was cash per airplay for any song featuring a Big Macs. Not surprisingly, the idea never flew, as not a single band would take up the offer from McDonald’s.
DJ Semtex, hip-hop DJ for the BBC’s 1Xtra radio station, says artists don’t want to be seen to be bought. “The way that they came up the scene was like ‘yeah, we’re going to get into this culture and we’re going to exploit and make some money and you’re going to buy our food’.”
So what makes a brand cool? Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of CoolBrands said:
“When we ask about what makes a cool brand, the kind of things we get back is authenticity, originality, uniqueness,” he said. “These are things that people are trying to strive for. They don’t want to be seen as having the same type of brands as everyone else. They’re looking for brands that have that cool edge.”
Mantra Brand Consulting adds that: “Authenticity, originality and uniqueness. If your brand doesn’t inherently have these traits, please… don’t attempt to be cool. You’ll look like you’re having a mid-life crisis, and you will be laughed at. You can play the “cool dad” who’s still a grown-up and acts accordingly, but don’t try to be 18 again. If it’s important to connect with the younger audience, don’t do it with your existing brand… this is the time for a new one that’s created from the ground up to appeal to a different mindset.”
The thing is, Kent is actually, genuinely a cool place. True, it’s not cleanly choreographed, it has rough edges and all the lawns aren’t perfectly manicured, but it remains true to it’s cool hippie roots and is still a very cool place to hang out. I think that’s why I get upset when I see other cities trying to diminish the cool factor that we had to earn the hard way. You can’t just build cool, or dub yourself cool, you have to earn it. Kent paid it’s dues and is basking in cool.