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Brand nirvana is mass cool- the secret- particpation and the right conversation

December 2, 2009

This is from a Brian Eno article that appeared in Propsect Magazine (thanks Colin Nagy)

We’re living in a stylistic tropics. There’s a whole generation of
people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they
don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew
up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it
Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something
is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective

I think this is good news. As people become increasingly comfortable
with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources—cherry-picking
whatever makes sense to them—it becomes more natural to do the same
thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas.”

It provides a lot of food for thought for those who are in the business of trying to make things cool. Although Eno is referring to music and art initially in this piece, he expands it to include cultural ideas.

So what about brands?

Follow Eno’s line of argument and all brands can be cool to someone. There’s no such thing as an uncool brand, everything is now accessible and acceptable because there are no real arbiters of taste and style.

If you take Eno’s thinking and mash it up with The Economist’s recent piece on media which described a world made up of big hits, successful micro-fragments and a place where being stuck in the middle is not where you want to be.

Perhaps, Eno is half right, because although everyone has the potential to be cool to someone, there’s uneven distributuon of this cool, it’s really a landscape where there’s mass cool, a sea of nothingness (a no man’s land where most brands are blahh) and niche cool. Going for the middle is pure compromise and the kiss of death, so either find your niche and be cool or go mass cool.

Every big brand in America wants to be mass cool which is about “now relevance” which simply means.

a) Participating in the now- a huge shift away from campaigns to conversations

b) Being clued into the dominant themes of the now- where are you in culture?

This demands that clients fully engage in participating in the now conversation, but do it in a way that is relevant to the dominant cultural themes. As we’ve been told by countless social media experts, it’s great to converse, but I would suggest that’s not enough, you need talk about what matters to people and explain how your brand connects to those themes.

So while you might be spending loads of time understanding the what’s and why’s of social media, it’s almost more important to understand the dominant cultural conversations in your world or category and to see how you brand connects to them. If you get this perhaps you can create conversations that connect the two together.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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