8 Feb 2007

Hip vs Cool

A couple of years back I remember being sat in a pub with my brother (pictured right) - discussing the difference between people who are hip, and those who are cool. As far as I can remember, the conversation went along these lines. . .

Being hip is intentional, try-hard and slavishly fashionable. Being cool is not. Cool is an elusive quality that some people just have. It's effortless. Cool is cool. Hip is only very occasionally cool - and only really by accident. Hip people aspire to cool. Cool people couldn't give a sh*t about being hip.

Numerous beers later, we congratulated each other on being the coolest people we knew and stumbled home. I think we may have repeated the conversation in a groundhog day stylie on many occasions since.

However, in one of my daily cruises around t'Interweb, I stumbled on a number of articles with a similar kind of theme. They revolved around the difference between being genuine and being authentic. There's a well developed Vince and Jen reference in there - so it seems three weeks in I'm genuinely proving myself to be a reader of Heat (cool status totally blown).

Anyway, this interested me for a couple of reasons. Being authentic is very similar to being cool - its hard to find, captivating when you do. Authentic people are the ones we want to be around, authentic brands are the ones we love to be associated with. Genuine just doesn't cut it anymore. It's a bit worthy and it's certainly not cool. We like the edginess that comes with authenticity - the possibility of surprise.

The concept of authenticity , in a marketing context, totally blows the whistle on bad branding. All around us we experience examples of brands that fall short on delivering what they promise. We don't fall for fancy advertising messages peddling half truths. We love authentic brands because they give us reassurance at every turn - they do what they say, people (rather than ads) tell us how good they are, they make us feel cool, because we know we're not getting hoodwinked. Authentic brands deliver value - regardless of how they are priced. They're just right.

For me, authenticity is going to be every brand's biggest challenge as they embrace our digital age. If your product's not great, no amount of papering over the cracks with smooth talking brand strategy is going to secure success long term. Savvy consumers already know this by instinct. Brand owners, many of whom have forgotten to trust their own instincts, in favour of slavish research and analysis, are in for a rude awakening.

(Paul - you are still the most authentic/cool/gummi guy I know - cheers!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I have one friend (whose heyday, and thus reference point, was probably the '60s when "hip" kind of did also mean "cool") whose use of the word "hip" these days, to describe what's "cool," has bothered me to no end. I've always felt that "hip" in modern times was NOT analogous to "cool." And that people who felt or exuded "hip" were no more than "cool" wanna-bes! Or, my words amazingly (to me) coming out of your mouth, "aspiring to be cool"!

But I never said anything because I did wonder if it was my own bias in defining the two -- believing that there was such a difference when maybe it was... just me?

But you've confirmed and validated my opinion. Many many thanks. I can now go forth and assert my argument with confidence.