What makes a cool brand?

If you ever want to know what’s cool, just ask a 14-year old girl.  You may not even have to ask her, she’ll just tell you.  It helps if her mother is a maven and her 16-year old sister is a fashionista.  But in this particular case, we’re talking about marketing and branding.  So, here’s how I know…

After 3 years of research, I finally broke down and bought a YETI cooler.  I was not entirely convinced I needed a YETI, but as a BBQ GrillMaster, pontoon boater, and now a wanna-be fisherman, I decided to pull the trigger.  Her 1st question to me was, “Does Mom know about this?”  I said, “Yes, she approved it.”  Then she said, “You know I’ve been wanting a YETI for 3 years?”  I said, “Really, why?”  She said, “Because they are cool.”  And then she said, “We need to decorate it.”  I said, “Huh?”  She said, “Yes, we need to decorate it with cool stickers.”  Again, I said, “Why?”  She said, “Trust me, Dad.  It’s what you do.” 

Of course, I was curious as to why a 14-year old girl knew so much about YETI coolers and their cult-like following.  So, she made a list of stickers that she wanted.  She went to “The Google” and searched for cool outdoorsy fishing stickers.  Slowly I was starting to get it.  She said, “Dad, we need to go get stickers.”  I had no other appointments so I said, “Sure, let’s go.”

And so, we headed to the Outdoor Source for some cool stickers.  The COOLEST sticker they had was a Patagonia fish.  I must admit, I was impressed.  I do like the Patagonia brand and they do have a cult-like following.   Unknowingly, I put the fish on upside down.  She said, “Dad, you’re an idiot.  It’s backwards.”  Again, I was impressed that she was so aware.  Personally, I would have the fish going the opposite direction like a StoneFish, but that’s another story for another time. 

She wanted to get a bunch more stickers so we headed to Lowes.  She said her mother wanted a Dewalt sticker.  Of course, who wouldn’t want a Dewalt sticker on their YETI?  So we went inside and asked the Lowe’s people if they had any Dewalt stickers.  The “older” folks looked at us funny like “why would you want a Dewalt sticker.”  She said, “C’mon, Dad.  They don’t get it.”  And so we where off again to our next stop, Dick’s Field & Stream. 

I wanted a Weber sticker for the YETI so I had her call Weber and see if they could send us a sticker.  Apparently, the “older” lady on the other end of the line at the Customer Support desk was not familiar with the concept of putting a sticker on a YETI cooler.

On the way to Dick’s Sports, we passed REI.  She said, “Oh, let’s stop there.”  We went in to the front desk and asked the 20-some guy at the counter.  He said the only stickers they had were REI stickers.  I told him that my daughter and I were decorating a YETI cooler.  He went behind the counter to the secret sticker vault and came out with an absolute handful of REI stickers.  And that’s when I realized that the really good marketeers understand the concept of stickers and decorating coolers, bumpers, laptops, and anything a 14-16 year girl would use, wear, drive, etc.  It’s called FREE ADVERTISING and CROSS-BRANDING.

The secret of good marketing is to understand your target audience and figure out what they like and why.  I now look at brands entirely differently.  I try to look at it from the eyes of a 14-year old girl.  Because if she gets it, then it will be cool.  And if it’s cool, it’s gonna be big. 

How did I not know this?  How could I have been so blind not to see what’s really going on?  14-year old girls spend money and they are constantly trying to define who they are.  They go online to Pinterest and pin stuff (clothes, fashion, birthday gifts, interior decorating tips, crafting stuff, outdoor adventures, spring break trips, health and fitness, and techno gadgetry). 

You can tell a lot about somebody by the things they choose to spend their money on.  Fortunately, my two girls babysit a lot and mow the grass so they can afford to buy some of this stuff.  But the real story as a student of the field of marketing is “how did they find out about these things and why do they want them?”  I guess I am going to have to save that blog post for another day when I better understand this ever-growing segment of the population.