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Creating a cool brand builds hot marketing connection to Generation Y


Do the following test in your family or office: ask everybody which brand is the most attractive they know? Even in newspaper offices, you will hear answers like Apple, Nike, Liverpool FC, or other Virgins.

This is not really a surprise. But in this digital age, what can written media like newspapers do to become or stay hot as brands for Generation Y youngsters who are the readers and consumers of tomorrow, the opinion leaders of the next generation?

A lot! And recently I read an interesting book about this, How Cool Brands Stay Hot by Joeri Van Den Bergh. I’ll give you the cherries I picked out of it, and hopefully you will oblige your managers and editors to read it soon.

First of all, Generation Y applies to anyone born after 1981. For the next 15 years, the group will have a tremendous influence on marketers and the success they have with products. It will also be the next generation of readers of newsmedia products.

When he speaks about brands, Van Den Bergh uses the word CRUSH, which stands for Coolness, Realness (or authenticity), Uniqueness, Self-identification and Happiness.

Newspapers are not exactly the coolest industry, but it is possible to be a hot brand: one to have a crush on.

The author did research among 5,000 youngsters and found out that cool brands feel closely what lives with their clients. The market changes very quickly, and brands stay cool by changing and reacting quickly. They also pay attention to small players in their industry, because they move faster than big ones. So keep an eye on new players and do not laugh at them, but copy them quickly. Do not wait — act.

Another interesting lesson is that pure brand advertising is not working. A brand is cool because of its features. It has to be a conversation starter. Which products have more chances every day than newspapers or Web sites? We can be real conversation starters if we have cool features.

Everybody expects surprises or innovations. That’s difficult for our industry. We do not produce t-shirts or watches. But that “cool handicap” can be bypassed if we play on emotions by paying attention to moments of special importance for youngsters: birthdays, graduations, the day you get your driver’s license, or buy your first car.

But can we do this by selling an ad to celebrate it? I guess not. Think about it from the reader’s market and create a product or place for it. People never forget who gave them a special feeling about something.

A great thing for newspapers is that old brands do not exist for these readers. Even a brand like Nike is much older than them. It gives you a chance to focus on the authenticity of your brand: loyal to yourself, consistent in positioning, consistent in advertising. It sounds weird, but youngsters love that. But as I said earlier, they also want you to adapt fast and pay attention to what is new and hot in their world. It sounds contradictory, but it’s not. They trust real and honest brands. This represents a chance to start new things with them.

Self-identification is another item. Probably a multiple-brand strategy is the only way to make close contact to this generation. It’s not possible (or extremely difficult) to be successful for both “gothics” and “fashionistas.” Having multiple brands is the answer, with well-known faces to promote them.

The last item is happiness. Positive emotions work. Make a relationship between your brand and nice moments, or take bad moments away (like a deodorant brand does). This could mean that positive, happy moments are the key to unlocking the hearts of young Generation Y readers for our real, authentic and honest brands. Never forget that a good feeling creates a positive connotation, and is the begining of a crush.

Read the book, and tell your colleagues that from now on it’s their job to make sure youngsters get a crush on your brand.  It’s another great opportunity for an internal campaign.

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