Updated: February 22, 2011 16:33 IST

CRUSH code of Gen cool

D. Murali
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Millennial kids do not go by marketing messages that say a product is cool; they decide for themselves what is cool, and so it is not a characteristic you can deliberately plan or chase, write Joeri Van den Bergh and Mattias Behrer in ‘How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generation Y’ ( The authors state that you have to earn the status of ‘cool brand.’ When you are capable of attaining this status, your brand’s coolness will translate into buying preference, they assure.

The book offers ‘CRUSH framework’ as a way to protect brands from losing their relevancy for the new consumer generation. The acronym stands for ‘coolness, realness, uniqueness, self-identification with the brand, and happiness.’

Cool formula

Of great value is the insight about ‘cool’ reported by the authors, based on their research and surveys. “For us to develop metrics for a cool experience DNA, the young adults in the project had to rate their experiences on coolness, effort (the perceived intention to be cool), and five dimensions: originality, popularity (appealing to peer group); edginess (daring approach to become cool); appeal (personal likeability); and buzz value (is it something they would talk about to others).”

In the ‘overall cool formula for Gen Y’ emerging from the exercise, what find place are three variables – original (22 per cent), popular (23 per cent), and appeal (55 per cent) – explaining nearly 80 per cent of the cool perception. The authors’ advice to un-cool brands with lower scores on appeal or popularity is to first work on originality, as for instance in product innovation or communication; because, a higher perceived originality can positively affect a brand’s coolness.

Get ‘real’

The ‘real’ chapter reminds that the market is not only flooded with an abundance of goods and services, but also increasingly filled with deliberately staged live experiences. Which is why, authenticity becomes essential. “When lacking time, trust and attention, brand authenticity plays an important role in choosing between equal alternatives. Youth seems to value authenticity in a world that is characterised by mass production and marketing.”

Interestingly, to the new Generation Y consumers, the old interpretation of authenticity based on origin, history and heritage is less appealing and less relevant, the authors inform. “Often they are not aware of these brand claims and it is not the most enticing strategy to win their hearts… Subtle cues suggesting authenticity (for instance in advertising or packaging) will often connect much better with them than stressing the old authenticity claims through mass advertising, or labels of origin.”

Unique identifier

To marketers who emphasise the ‘uniqueness’ of their products, it may be sobering to read in the book that more than 6 out of 10 Gen Y-ers think new products are not really different. The antidote, as the authors highlight, is to realise that a brand’s perceived uniqueness is mainly the result of executing a consistent positioning strategy. “For Gen Y consumers, it is only when a brand begins to merge with their own identity and becomes self-expressive, that they will feel a bond with the brand.”

An example discussed in the book is of energy drinks, where Red Bull comes out as the clear winner, with its ‘unique identifier’ index being significantly higher than Burn and Rock Star. The most distinctive brand asset of Red Bull seems to be the colours of the packaging, the authors note. “The cold colours of Red Bull, blue and silver, represent intellect or mind, while the hot ones, red and gold, symbolise emotion and the body.”

Reaction time

However, the authors point out that the average reaction time to the Red Bull advertising – in a study involving a thousand 16- to 29-year-olds, all non-rejecters of the energy drink category, in five European countries, viz. France, Spain, Sweden, Italy, and Belgium, with three randomised blocks of 36 visuals – was 589 milliseconds compared to a lower 575 milliseconds for the Burn ad.

Why so? Because Burn makes use of the flames in its ads whereas Red Bull visualises the sign-off slogan of the brand (‘Red Bull gives you wings’) but is not endorsing it with the red bulls of the logo, nor its dominant packaging colours, the authors reason. “From the analysis above, we could advise Red Bull to increase the use of its blue and silver colours in advertising, since that is currently their biggest distinctive brand asset.”

A book you can’t allow to cool off in the shelves.


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