To over think what is cool – or what “cool” even means – is probably very un-cool.
It’s part of a string of slang terms over the years that has included hep, hip, groovy, neat, oh-reet, solid, awesome, in and phat. They go in and out. (When’s the last time you heard anyone say “solid, Jackson”? Probably an old Bing Crosby movie.) And I’m guessing that “phat” stopped being cool in the black community as soon as the white community co-opted it.
Yet, according to Urban Dictionary, “cool never goes out of style and people will never laugh at you for using it.”
And that’s because “cool” has captured a way of defining acceptability, fashionability, admiration. In the mind-boggling series of neural synapses that constitutes making a decision, consumers of all ages still say, “that’s cool, I’ll take it.”
But one generation thought it was cool to change channels without leaving your chair. A subsequent generation thinks it’s cool to FaceTime with a peer in Nairobi without leaving your chair.
In its latest in-depth research report, “The Continuum of Cool,” WD Partners explores the minds of those two largest generational groups, the yin and yang of our society, baby boomers and millennials.
The oldest boomers are now approaching 70. The youngest millennial is around 20. Do boomers still think of “cool” as something their peers will admire, envy, copy? Do millennials think of “cool” largely in terms of climate change?
WD’s report says millennials regard “cool” in terms of individualism. “Millennials want brands that allow them to create a personal style,” says WD.
Boomers, on the other hand, still travel in herds. “Boomers still want to try the latest cup of coffee, dabble in the freshest fashion trends and stay up-to-date on technological changes.”
So boomers like Starbucks coffee because it’s fashionable to like Starbucks coffee, because it puts them in the know. Millennials like Starbucks coffee because Starbucks is organic, gives back to the planet and lets them sit around all day and roam the web.
Boomers like Apple products because everyone says it’s smart to use Apple products. Millennials like Apple products because they’re functional and innovative.
For millennials, says WD, “technology no longer serves as a way for this generation to signal difference; its ubiquity and thorough lifestyle adoption defines the entire generation, so it no longer serves as a way to define identity.”
So what is that secret sauce, and who else is serving it? How can you meet boomers’ desire for trendiness and millennials’ need for individualism? Target? Whole Foods? H&M? Amazon? Ray Ban? Nike? James Bond?
What’s so cool it bridges a 50-year age gap? And what has turned to phat?