CRUSH code of Gen cool

D. Murali | Updated on: Feb 23, 2011


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 attain 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 relevance 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, 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, three variables find place — original (22 per cent), popular (23 per cent), and appeal (55 per cent) — explaining 80 per cent of the cool perception. The authors' advice to un-cool brands with lower scores on appeal or popularity is to work on originality. For instance, in product innovation or communication.

Get ‘real'

The ‘real' chapter reminds that the market is not only flooded with goods and services, but also 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.”

Unique identifier

To marketers who emphasise the ‘uniqueness' of their products, it may be sobering to read in the book that more than six 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 the result of executing a consistent positioning strategy.

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 - 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.

Published on February 23, 2011
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