Monday, June 1, 2009

Did You Used To Do This At School To Be Cool?

A couple of posts I read earlier today got me thinking about “cool” and “brands”.

The first was Adam Ferrier’s post at Consumer Psychologist, “How Cool Are You?”, which talks about what makes people cool and and how he and team at Naked have built on some earlier work and developed a Facebook application (so you can take a questionnaire and determine how cool you are).

Then Dan Pankraz’s blog talked about Branding Bedrooms in Austria where he discovered that, despite kids living outside big cities, they loved urban streetwear brands and that both boys and girls often ask the staff in shops for stickers so that they can brand their bedrooms with their favourite brands.

Those posts combined to take me back to my school days …

I went to school about 2 hours from the ocean but one of the surrogates for being cool was surf brands - just like the Austrian kids living outside the big cities but still wanting to buy urban streetwear brands. We lived in-land but loved all the surf brands.

The other big thing that was a surrogate for being cool was how you branded your folder and you were only cool if you had a folder which you had covered with loads of surf brand logos. Truth be told we should have been studying but instead we would spend hours scouring our old surfing magazines for logos to cut out from their ads. We would take the logos and stick them on our folder and then apply contact (being so f#%&ing careful not to get bubbles in it!).surf logo folder

It might just be my perception and old memory but you wouldn’t have been caught dead without a great looking surf branded folder and we would often gather round when we noticed one of our mates had created a new folder (extra points if they put some bikini babes on it and the teachers never noticed!).

The thing that struck me today was that, back then when we were such avid fans on brands, the brands did absolutely zero to encourage and fuel this behaviour. Maybe they knew about it, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they weren’t worrying about the kids 2 hours in-land and instead concentrated their efforts on kids near the sea?

I wish I could find a post I read a few months ago that talked about consumers walking a path because my description coming up doesn’t do it justice. The post talked about how it isn't a brand’s job to create a path and try and make people go down it or to lead them in a certain direction. People are already on paths and journeys and as such it is the brands job to join them on their path, to pull in alongside the consumer, and help guide and make the journey more enjoyable (points for whoever can show me where that post is).

So do kids still do this sort of folder stuff? Or did you used to do it yourself?

If kids do still to it then it provides an awesome opportunity for popular brands to fuel this kind of brand love and surrogacy for cool. They could be giving kids the tools to create folders and they could run competitions for best folder design. Or are they doing this already and I am just too far removed from that market and don’t have sight of it? Does anyone have kids in this age group? Enlighten me …

This stuff was all happening before we really had the internet in our homes so maybe the surrogates for cool have shifted to iPhones etc. If so, does anybody have any great examples of how brands are engaging youth? By that I mean not creating events and sites that attract the kids but instead walking the path they are already following e.g. folder design, and getting involved an helping them

Man I wish I still had one of those folders …


Knorts said...

I was at a private highschool in Melbs last week and it would appear kids trick up their laptops.

Stickers go on the laptops - not the folder. The casing of a laptop is fair game for scribble and stickers just as our pencil cases and folders used to be. Not all kids seem to do it and it appears more common on older laptops?

I only observed one class - a design class so obviously not representative.

Nathan Bush said...

I remember that one time as a prize in highschool I got a Triple J sticker. It was so well desired I was able to auction it off for a little over $2.

It's a good point you make - it was all about self expression. What you had on the front cover of your books expressed who you are (or more importantly, what you want to be). That's why we spent so long on it.

Matt Moore said...

Nathan - It's not just about self-expression, it's also about group belonging. You want to get props from your classmates.

Being a teenager has a curious tension - you want to disassociate yourself from your parents (& childhood) but you want to fit in with your peers.

That's why "successful" teenagers aren't necessarily the most interesting adults. They are too good at fitting in (I recall an Oyster comment about this a while ago).

I also wonder if the best thing a brand could do to get teenagers' attention is to ignore them. Teenagers are often drawn to the exotic & worldly (as a way of showing that you're a grown-up). In targetting young people you risk looking... childish.