The Rule of Cool (Part 2)

In case you missed it yesterday, check out the Rule of Cool Part 1 - the opening salvo of my manifesto about how "coolness" is key part of social media success, especially in higher ed.

I'm still in the conceptual phase right now - I'll get into more concrete examples later this week. Hope you enjoy!

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Creativity Conquers All?

Content marketing and real-time marketing, the buzziest buzzwords words in social, are a reaction to the postmodern millennial marketing dilemma. (i.e. "Nothing is original, and everyone's seen everything that's been done before.")

Volkswagen making a video about a stairwell that has been converted to a piano? Denny’s tweeting about the Super Bowl, using an “ironic” Full House reference? What a fascinating modern age we live in.

These strategies have the goal to 1) Make something interesting that provides real value so it won’t feel like marketing, or 2) Shut up about your brand and “join the conversation” about whatever is trending at the moment, generally using humor while – just kidding from earlier – connecting it back to your brand.

In theory, this makes sense. You can force people to pay attention by providing them with really great content that they want to spend time on and engage with. Things that make them laugh, things that teach them something, things that make them feel inspired… anything of that ilk.

Similarly, if you know a critical mass of people are interested in a particular topic (big sporting event, breaking news topic, etc.) you can make people notice your brand by engaging in the social conversation that is happening in real time.

But does it work?

That’s like asking if meat loaf works. In the hands of my mom, yes. In the hands of Doris the lunch lady? Not so much.

So what’s the secret ingredient to successful content/real-time marketing meat loaf?

Creativity helps, but it’s not enough. As explained in Part 1: Nothing is original.

Ultimately, coolness is the straw that stirs the drink.


The Glorious Chaos of Hip

I’m currently reading Thomas Frank’s The Conquest of Cool, which examines how advertisers presaged and, in many ways, shaped the counter-culture that sprung out of the 1960s. (i.e., Mad Men stuff). In it, he describes how brands played off of the “establishment” and aligned themselves with youth.

But not youth as in age; rather, youth as a construct. That is, the concept of youth as a composite of values and ideals: different, modern, innovative, independent. You don’t have to actually be young to identify as young.

None of this is very earthshattering. We all know that youth sells and that no one wants to be seen as the stuffy, boring person. Apple’s famous Mac vs. PC ad campaign is a perfect, and blatant, modern example of this.

What began in the 1960s remains just as true today. People want to identify with things that feel “different” – cool and against the mainstream and providing an outlet for shaping a “unique self” within the crushing homogenizing forces of mass culture and media.

But the big problem with tapping into hip is that it is exquisitely difficult to pull off. We all know the sad, desperate failures that hamfisted attempts at hip are. Hip is fleeting, organic, and chaotic. It can rarely be bottled, let alone manufactured.

So how do we know when we are onto something that is truly hip? In the famous words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, you’ll know it when you see it.

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Part 3 coming tomorrow! 

Music at Midweek: Pink Martini

The Rule of Cool (Part 1)