“Cool matters,” according to a recent Google report entitled “It's Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool.”
For today's teens, according to the report, “what’s cool is also a representation of their values, their expectations of themselves, their peers, and the brands they hold in the highest regard.”
The folks at Google actually commissioned some data on this: They partnered with survey outfit YouGov to interview 1,100 teens age 13 to 17 on the perceived “coolness” of 122 brands — everything from Netflix to McDonald's to Sunglasses Hut to the Wall Street Journal.
The surveyors had the teens grade the companies on a 1-through-10 “coolness” scale. They also tracked how “aware” the kids were of all 122 brands — which ones they'd heard of and which ones they hadn't.
The folks at Google crunched these numbers and put them all in a glossy scatterplot that tells us two things at once: the brands teens know, and the ones they think are cool. That chart's below. The labels are tiny, but I'll walk you through the high and low points. (And you can always open up Google's original report and poke around yourself.)
The No. 1 coolest brand in America? YouTube, according to the teens. Netflix comes in second place, and Google comes in third. And most other brands aren't even close.
Now if you're somewhat skeptical about a Google-commissioned survey showing Google and YouTube — which Google acquired in 2006 — in the top tier of teen coolness, you should be. Neither Google nor YouGov responded to requests to share the topline questionnaire of the survey. The question wording would help us see if anyone is putting their thumb on the methodological scales, so to speak.
So some gain-of-salt-taking is warranted here, particularly with respect to the Google products that appear in Google's chart. On the other hand, most of the interesting findings concern all the non-Google brands. Like Oreos, which teens rank the coolest non-tech company.
“Teens go crazy for Oreos!” the report's authors write. “Oreos are cool because of the variety of delicious flavors and the cute/funny marketing.” Noted.
The only other non-tech brands to crack the top 10: Nike and Doritos.
Moving away from the top of the chart, the rankings let you draw all sorts of neat coolness comparisons between the brands you love and/or hate. Dominos is cooler than Pizza Hut. Coke is cooler than Pepsi, but neither is as cool as Gatorade. The Facebook Messenger app is less cool than Facebook itself. (As one perceptive Twitter user put it yesterday, “Idk why Facebook messenger is considered less cool than Facebook and I also don't know why I agree.")
You want more cool? Axe Body Spray is cooler than Sunglass Hut. Sunglass Hut is cooler than JC Penney. JC Penney is just a hair cooler than Red Bull (ouch). Every single company is cooler than gonzo journalism outlet Vice (double ouch), with one exception: the Wall Street Journal, which teens rated the least-cool brand of all.
“Well kids,” retorted WSJ reporter Mike Bird, “the bond market doesn't think you're cool either.”
The Washington Post was not included in the report
, presumably because it's so cool it would have broken the chart's x-axis. The report also included a throwaway section on which brands millennials think are cool, but nobody cares about them because millennials have not been cool for at least several years now. Fun fact: The oldest millennials (born 1980) will be eligible for AARP membership (age 50) in approximately 13 years.
“Gen Z believe and rely on brands to shape their world,” the report concludes. “As professionals, we should see this as our challenge—to live up to the standard Gen Z has set for us and to continue to inform, inspire, and create products and marketing that facilitate the world in which they want to live.”
Like Oreos, apparently.