Good news for brands: Google has released a comprehensive guide to what teens think is cool. Perhaps you’ve heard of Generation Z, the cadre of Americans younger than Millennials who will apparently be this country’s last generation. There are about 60 million of these 13 to 17 year-olds, and they spend $44 billion annually. “But it could be close to $200 billion annually when you factor in their influences on parental and household purchases,” Google’s new Coolbook assures us. It’s called It’s Lit: a guide to what teens think is cool, and it is every bit as edgy, disruptive and authentic as that title suggests. I quote page two:
Gen Z has an enlightened definition of what it means to be cool. Teens feel that being cool is about just being yourself, embracing what you love, rejecting what you don’t, and just being kind to others. The activities they think are cool reflect their generational struggle between technology and RL (real life.)
You know you’ve hit on a useful definition of cool when it contains the word “just” twice. Terrifying chart after the jump.
According to Google, here’s what teens think is cool, or “lit,” compared to what they think is less cool, or “gay.”
Good news: technology, media entertainment, and sports are all pretty cool. Unfortunately, books/school, people (friends & family), and art are down there at the bottom with nature and money. I, for one, welcome our new generation of soulless, broke cyberathletes. But there’s reason not to take this chart too serioulsy, and it isn’t just the overwhelming popularity of “other.” Even though books/school is among the least cool areas here, another part of the Coolbook makes the opposite claim:
Props to Willy for pointing that out. Discrepancies like these make the reader worry that this Google Coolbook is not the scientific document we want it to be. So does this quote from Female, 17, UT, Urban:
When I think “cool,” I imagine companies that do great things for customers/employees or beautiful/unusual products.
First of all, once you’ve given the hints “Utah” and “urban,” you can just say Salt Lake City. Second, who is this terrifying 17 year-old girl? There is something wrong with a teenager who has the same idea of cool as an ambitious middle manager. Either that or there is nothing wrong with her, and she simply told the surveyors what they wanted to hear. This phenomenon might also account for teens’ overwhelming interest in Oreos—which they admire for their “variety of delicious flavors and the cute/funny marketing”—and their belief in the coolness of Google itself.
If you direct your attention to pages 11-14, you will find charts that plot the recognition of various brands against their coolness among both teens and Millennials. For reasons that would probably make sense if I thought about them longer, awareness is on a scale of one to ten, and coolness is on a scale of four to nine. Regardless, the same three brands occupy that far corner of both awareness and coolness for teens and Millennials: YouTube, Google, and Netflix. How thrilling must that discovery have been for Google, the brand that conducted this survey!
Bad news for Vice, which is approximately as cool as Lululemon and Kraft Foods among Millennials but, to teens, only slightly cooler than the Wall Street Journal. Good news for Wendy’s, which is almost an entire point cooler among the rising generation. Comparisons like these draw attention to the utter emptiness of the word “cool,” probably in all contexts but definitely when we’re talking about brands. “What’s good, fellow teens,” I say as Oreos fall from my mouth onto my Vans. “Let’s talk about which companies do great things for customers/employees.” I am struck in the back of the head with a skateboard. I wonder what went wrong as I crumple into unconsciousness. I thought I was cool.