What is cool? As marketers we are always trying to pinpoint that ephemeral and often intangible “it factor.” Hard to define, and embodied by few—sometimes only once in a generation — you know it when you see it. In many ways, cool hasn’t changed that much since Boomers were kids, but the technology with which we deliver it has.
Take Elvis. Beloved by Boomers and Gen Xers alike, there were many versions of the legend. From mama’s boy to rebel, gospel to Vegas, Elvis was perennially cool, albeit kitschy. No doubt if he were alive today, he and his personal brand would be adapted to personify cool. But the challenge always lies in the delivery: we can’t take Elvis from the 1950s or 1960s in grainy black-and-white footage, and expect audiences both new and old to be gripped with the same mania.
This is a missed opportunity for marketers, where the subject is timeless but the presentation is outdated. When we harness technology to bring the King to audiences, interesting things begin to happen. Nostalgia in and of itself is an attractive draw, and all the better when it’s brought into stark and contemporary relief.
Boomers, are nothing if not reminiscent. Growing up, they drank Coke in glass bottles, rode wooden roller coasters and saved up for comic books like Spider Man. Those affinities have not changed—in fact in some instances they’ve only grown. A recent Wall Street Journal article referred to them as “a cohort of Peter Pans, determined not to grow up any more than they can help.”
Staying connected to our history – the times we experienced first-hand – is important for most people, and for Boomers it’s especially true. Advertisers and marketers should look for opportunities to create new content and situations to breathe life into the old, and speak to enduring themes in our culture. Take, for instance, the Billboard Music Awards this past year where we had virtual Michael Jackson perform “Slave to the Rhythm.” Or Lady Gaga’s new tour with Tony Bennett.
When technology brings legends to life, and renders time immaterial, when old mixes with new, now that is cool.