Children may be technologically advanced and marketing savvy, but research into what makes a brand cool reveals eight to 14-year-olds still want to have fun.
And design-led brands that also offer a social experience stand a far better chance of achieving supercool status because the amount of content that tweens consume on a daily basis means brands need to add something to be more interactive, according to research carried out by The Pineapple Lounge. The report, seen exclusively by Marketing Week, also warns brands to consider this as a long-term strategy because young people will grow up and expect this sort of interaction in adulthood.
This demographic, known as Generation D, clearly has an affinity with technology brands. The research identified 20 spontaneously cool brands from a sample size of 200 mentioned overall by respondents. Apple tops the list, followed by Playstation 3, Xbox 360, YouTube and BlackBerry.
Although it is clearly an advantage to be a technology brand, to be seen as cool among Generation D it is crucial to offer a positive social experience, according to Emma Worrollo, founder of The Pineapple Lounge.
“Kids in the UK don’t have a good public image, but this generation is amazing at creating content and they’re able to make informed decisions with information at their fingertips. If you show a positive representation of youth, anything will combat that hoodie image,” she says.
The drivers of cool identified by the study fall into the categories of design and creativity, innovation and uniqueness.
Design was by far the most significant cool element from the research. Generation D grow up interacting with touchscreens and innovative games consoles and they have high expectations about functionality and design that eclipses that of previous generations at this age. The research found that if a brand has high production values, attention to detail and innovative packaging, it is more than twice as likely to be rated as a supercool brand.
“HTC came sixth on the top 20 spontaneously cool brands, just beating Apple on the design element. It would help HTC to look at this, jump on it and own it,” Worrollo claims.
While this group of consumers is looking for brands to create a paradigm shift, they are not looking for out and out rebellion. Clearly, it is important for brands to stand out and innovate but it’s not necessary for them to break the mould every time. The way this group wants to stand out and feel unique is different to adults. Safe individuality appeals where this age group can stand out from the safety of their tribe.
“Standing out and being unique sounds obvious but it’s interesting to note that Generation D does not like brands that jump on the bandwagon. They are very critical of me-too products. They can’t be duped and are looking for brands that have an opinion,” Worrollo warns.
Injecting humour is also likely to make a brand supercool, with products able to make young consumers laugh 60% more likely to achieve this status. “There’s a temptation for brands that appeal to tweens to make themselves super-aspirational, but that can alienate a young audience if you don’t have a bit of colour and fun along the way,” says Worrollo.
The Pineapple Lounge applied its supercool formula to the CBBC television brand as well as Nickelodeon. Both have a 21% supercool rating and are brands that stand out for making that age group laugh (see above).
While analysing the drivers of cool identified by The Pineapple Lounge is useful to identify areas where a brand might improve its standing among its key demographic, it is not a silver bullet to transform a brand overnight. Worrollo warns: “Cool is a difficult thing for brands to get a hold of. There is never one single thing that drives cool.”
The research surveyed 1,000 children aged between eight and 14 years old online, measuring defining cool words and sourcing spontaneous cool brands. A further online survey of 600 children of the same age used statistical modelling to create a cool formula and cool calculator.
Ranking order of supercool brand drivers
1 Has sleek, neat designs
2 Stands out
3 Is unique
4 Makes me laugh
5 Does new stuff all the time
6 Is creative
7 Gives me choices
8 Has a positive attitude
Five key words that define cool brand traits:
We ask marketers on the frontline whether our ‘trends’ research matches their experience on the ground
Head of marketing
I would agree that it’s important to incorporate all the key elements set out in the research. From a design perspective we’re only as good as the Lego product so we work closely with Lego’s in-house design team, creating branding collateral with the in-house marketing team to reflect what they’re doing. A lot of the activity seen around Legoland should reflect that as much as possible.
A lot of what we do is about being current and up to date, from the Star Wars miniland that opened at the beginning of the season to the video content.
For the launch of the Legoland hotel, we ran a campaign at the start of the season on Facebook. We had a team of people on site with iPads for the Star Wars weekend event and everyone registering at the hotel that weekend was offered a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip linked to the Facebook account. They could then tour the park, checking in at various attractions or having their photo with Chewbacca instantly posted to their wall.
It was a sample group of only 500 people that weekend but the amplification was such that it spread across tens of thousands of mentions and views. It’s something we think is really worth looking into on a bigger basis in the future. But whatever activity we create has to work on many levels from toddlers to teens.
The Entertainer (toy retailer)
A lot of buying decisions are made on what the brand’s exposure will be in terms of TV advertising. Cool is good but very rarely will something take off without any massive TV campaign within the toy arena. Kids are driven by what they’re told to buy. Peer influence is huge when it comes to getting critical mass.
Toys rarely reinvent the wheel. The current craze with Moshi Monsters and the swappable plastic figurines takes you back to the days of football stickers. But the sharing element is very important and the sea change here has been the influence of the website. Prior to Moshi Monsters, there wasn’t a website that drove a brand. It wouldn’t have happened five years ago. Gogos may not have had the web presence but achieved desirability by seeding within the market, giving them away to select kids to create exclusivity then teasing on magazine covermounts. But again this wouldn’t happen without a TV campaign.
The sharing element is very important and where Moshi has succeeded is in providing kids with a safe online environment where they can interact. Kids play games against one another and share what they’ve achieved. That extension of bragging rights is so important in the playground.
Chief marketing and commercial officer
Mind Candy (Moshi Monsters)
With Moshi Monsters, we aimed to design a unique, sleek, humorous but most importantly fun and social brand experience. Similar to the way Pixar approaches its movie franchises, our ethos is to create fun and compelling content that appeals to boys, girls and parents. We are careful to not patronise our audience, so we develop edgy and aspirational content that is both clever and intertwined with a story to build a living, breathing brand that grows with our audiences around the world.
Due to the social nature of the Moshi Monsters online game, we have a proactive, ongoing dialogue with the game’s 65 million-plus registered users, who give us daily feedback on the continuing development of the game and brand. Using the virtual world as the digital heartbeat of the brand allows us to develop the game and all connected extensions of the Moshi brand with a unique vision and approach to ensure we are delivering content that we know resonates with our players around the world.
There’s no science in achieving “cool”. That said, there is a science in developing content that is fun, compelling and most importantly social. Harnessing the power of social behaviours means that good game content mixed with rich compelling story can become viral very easily. The virality of Moshi Monsters is something that has inspired children from around the world to play and engage with both the game and wider brand and we think this ensures the product has always remained both fresh and new.
We’ve grown the game exponentially over the past three years in more than 150 countries globally and still growing at a pace of one new user per second. A major driver of this incredible growth is agonising over the quality of the product and harnessing the virality through safe social features. It’s a careful balance between growth and saturation. We are careful not to over-saturate as your product can quickly become uncool.