Book review: How cool brands stay hot – Branding to Gen Y
A great deal is written about Generation Y customers (13-29 year olds), not least how much money they have. What is even more disconcerting is that often these youthful people are turning up on the boards of big companies, because they are the ones with the ideas, the acumen and the technology know-how.
For a marketer, the challenge is how to keep a brand young and fresh enough to stay attractive to this vibrant and fascinating generation of doers (albeit on a mobile screen while they are doing three other things at the same time).
The important element in the battle to engage with people younger than us, is to learn to love them, and then persuade them to love us back.
Authors Joeri Van den Bergh and Mattias Behrer are Generation Xers, so were once cool but no more, even though they both once worked for MTV. But they believe they know how to keep a brand cool. In fact this is the premise of their book “How Cool Brands Stay Hot – Branding to Generation Y” (published by KoganPage, £19.99).
Some of the case studies have obvious messages: Keep the stock fresh, respond to trends, react swiftly, achieve a high self-identification with Gen Yers, and of course, employ some of them and listen to them. Other messages are: arouse their interest, make sure that even the smell is right (no Grandma aromas) and of course the music must be what your potential customers are likely to be listening to. This of course will be about tribe, not just age, but you get the general idea.
Don’t focus too much on the history of your product or company – Gen Yers don’t care – and don’t wax lyrical about past successes for the same reason. Stay in the present, because this is where the Yers are. Apparently Gen Yers are suspicious of Celebrity Endorsements, (and of course celebrities are inclined to ruin their reputations). A must is to use Gen Y language, whether it is text icons (emoticons), social media phrases or shortened words.
There are some interesting snippets of interesting information in the book. Did you know that —..—.. is Morse Code representation of 88 and was used in the 19th century to express ‘love and kisses’. So it could be suggested that it was the first SMS-type symbolism.
Also that freelance artist Harvey Ball designed the well-known ‘smiley face’ that is the mainstay of SMS emoticons of a yellow circle with two dots and an upturned curve. This was in 1963.
The main message of the book is that self-identification with brands is by far the most important step in remaining a hot brand, which sort of makes obvious sense as soon as you read it.
This is not a new book (first published 2011). But there is a great deal of really sensible learnings to be had from it, especially as the Generation Yers are moving from young and poor towards their thirties, with even more disposable income.
It will soon be time to think about how to relate to the Generation Zers.