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The art of cool

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What makes a brand cool? SHAUNEEN PROCTER of Idea Engineers explains.

Cool is the holy grail of 21st century marketing … and while most brands chase the cool factor in one way or another, for youth orientated companies cool is quite simply a bottom line imperative.

But what actually makes a brand cool? If most brands and their agencies are perpetually striving for the cool factor, how do some achieve it while others are written off by their target markets as trying too hard?

‚Well it starts with the product,‚ says Shauneen Procter, partner at brand and reputation agency Idea Engineers. ‚You can market as much as you like, but the product has to meet the functional needs and demands of the consumer as the first point of departure.‚

Two of Idea Engineers’ clients, BlackBerry and Gold Reef City Theme Park, recently won key categories in the Sunday Times Generation Next 2011 Brand Survey Awards. BlackBerry was named Coolest Brand Overall, unseating Coca-Cola for the first time in years, took top honours in the Coolest Cellphone category and emerged as the Coolest High-Tech Gadget. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was also named Best Cellphone Application, while the Gold Reef City Theme Park was identified as the Coolest Local Fun Destination.

According to Procter, Generation Y is a tricky market to please because they are mobile, tech-loving, connected consumers who are very vocal about the brands they love or hate. If you end up on the wrong side of this equation, marketing campaigns can unravel, and quickly. Conversely however, Procter says when you market convincing brands the cool factor can grow exponentially thanks to the viral effect enabled by social networks. Ultimately, she says the key to establishing and maintaining a cool brand identity lies in taking strategic control over the complex interplay between public relations and advertising. Get the relationship between these two elements right and you have a brand mix able to punch well above its weight.

“It’s important not to focus solely on overt promotions,‚ adds Procter. ‚The new social media communication context is extremely transparent, which means consumers respond best to the good old fashioned combination of service, product excellence and consistent, reliable communication. Once these are working hand in hand you can start to look at how to innovate in the realm of promotional campaigns and so forth ‚ but this innovation must take place on a very strong product and communication platform if it’s going to succeed.‚

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