Keeping Up With The MediaHeads Newsletter: Season 10, Episode 5: Constantly Cool – Brands That Understand Sweet Sixteen.

Whilst in a brand update with a youth radio station last week, I was reminded that remaining relevant to a youthful audience is not an incidental occurrence but a strategic brand positioning that evolves with time, not age. Why is the watch brand, Swatch forever young? What makes Steers the grab and go choice of teenagers? Why is Red Bull a catalyst of cool and what is it about Converse that kicks so hard?

Heritage: Cool youth brands are rooted in heritage. Heritage has a legacy, and long lines of legacy help tell amazing stories. These stories progress with generations and evolve as the generations change. But there is always a new story building a new legacy. Converse stands out as a brand that has capitalised on legacy. All Star and Chuck Taylors are sneakers with tens of thousands of steps and as many stories. Originally designed as a basketball shoe, the sneaker has retained its classic design and timeless feel. It is also a brand that understands music culture. For teenagers in the 90’s, All Stars were the choice of Nirvana, Metallica and Green Day, and Converse understood grunge and what made the fans tick. In an on-going partnership, Converse and Miley Cyrus have partnered to encourage the feeling of independence and self-empowerment. The partnership celebrates Cyrus’s evolution and take fans along for the ride. Embracing sub cultures associated to music has kept the brand in demand with new generations but not alienating the teenagers of yesteryear.

Authenticity: Authenticity is a trust commodity, and it is built through consistency and identity. A brand that remains consistently creative, bold and in demand is Swatch. In today’s world Swatch is even more of a unicorn, in that classic watches are now digital extensions of the mobile phone and connectivity. Watches no longer just tell the time, they read your e- mail too! But Swatch is different, it always has been. From thick elastic straps, iconic culture designs, pop faces and interchangeable straps, the Swatch is the one analogue item that has stood the test of time and remains on the wish list of teenage shoppers. Swatch embraces art and design across generations. 

Innovation: Red Bull is a brand that understands innovation is the key to longevity. They are more than an energy drink. They are a symbol of extreme sports, human excellence, collaboration and pushing boundaries. If there is anything teenagers are famous for, pushing boundaries is it and Red Bull associates with that. Red Bull embraces the edge and mixes things up. From BMX’s, base jumping and beatboxing, the brand gives you more than wings!
Beyond the drink and brand association they are a content hub for all sorts of cool, integrating themselves into youth culture one generation at a time,

Quality: If there is one thing that youthful consumers appreciate, it’s quality. You can carry the latest fashion and throw away accessories. But the basics need to be quality items. Like Converse, Levis Jeans have a similar approach. They have adapted their styles and stitching to appeal to different sub-cultures and styles but have remained true to their heritage. This is an interesting space, but it has worked for them. Levis are a vastly different brand to G-Star who also have a strong youth influence but appeal to different markets. Understanding the essence of your consumer and being resolute in your offering creates opportunities for brands to co-exist and serve consumers. 

Messaging Matters: The soft drink market is a competitive space with new options continually filling the fridges. Think of the hype around Prime and the subsequent price fall too. Messaging matters as much as product and taste. Sprite is an iconic youth brand with a no-nonsense and an inclusive approach. Sprite speaks to diversity, celebrating uniqueness, innovation, and urban culture. Sprite know what market they speak to, how to speak to them and how to continue the conversation beyond the advertising. By remaining loyal and constant to a vibrant urban youth market, Sprite is synonymous with youthful consumers and
tastebuds. 

Brands that understand culture, innovation, adaptability, authenticity, relevance, and timing have an edge to speaking to youthful consumers. But this isn’t enough. There is an edge with each generation that needs to be translated and respected. When this gains momentum and traction over multiple generations, it’s a preverbal slam-dunk, ask Chuck Taylor.

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