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Belgium GenY'ers consider London the coolest EU city Belgium GenY’ers consider London the coolest EU city

London is the coolest European city according to Belgian youngsters (36%). They are less proud of their capital (8%) than youngsters in other countries. Shops are determining the coolness of a city and youngsters desire to have the same bond with brands and stores as the bond they have with their friends. This ‘City Coolness’ study is a qualitative study commissioned by Eurostar in which 15 Belgian youngsters were brought together in London to take pictures of stores and brands they thought were cool and authentic. These photos were tagged and commented on by the youngsters and subsequently analysed by my company InSites Consulting. In order to enrich the interpretation, we used a photo-analysis technique. The figures we share below are the result of a quantitative study of 260 Belgian youngsters between 15 and 25 years.

London is the coolest

So London is the coolest European city according to Belgian youngsters; Paris (24%) is in second place just before Barcelona (21%). Only 8% of Belgian youngsters considered Brussels to be “cool”. Compared with other countries, the Belgian youth appears to be less proud of their own capital city. Amsterdam for example was considered cool by one out of five Dutch youngsters (20 %). For Paris and London, this was three out of five youngsters.

What’s cool about London?

First, a high degree of “authenticity”. London is a genuine cosmopolitan city. Moreover, it is a constantly changing city, so you get the feeling that there’s a lot of things happening, always. In this society of abundance, where young people have a plethora of affordable choices in the field of urban nightlife, it is the authenticity and proximity to a city that makes the difference. London is around the corner, and yet so much cooler than Belgian cities. It’s not only the English language and the true melting pot of cultures but also a city that continues to reinvent itself constantly. London is not only the home of many popular film and pop stars, and a place where new bands are born, but also the birthplace of the newest shopping and entertainment trends. It is a cosmopolitan city that still feels very cosy and authentically British.

The survey was conducted prior to the London riots, which therefore certainly did not affect the results. Earlier there was the positive buzz surrounding the wedding of Kate and Prince William and with the upcoming Olympic Games, the city remains on the radar.

Shops determine coolness

Besides the tourism factor of a large city, it is mainly the local shops and brands that make a city unique. For Generation Y (aged between 15 and 30 years), shopping is one of the top five leisure activities. For 1 out of 5 it is even the number one form of entertainment. When shopping, they look for brands that match their interests, passions and lifestyle. They therefore desire to have the same bond with brands and stores as the bond they have with their friends. Together with the Belgian youngsters, InSites Consulting determined three ways for shops to build up such a bond and be regarded as ‘cool’.

  1. The origins and history of a brand teaches young people something about the integrity of the brand: to what extent the brand remains true to its origins and DNA. Think for example of the 125th anniversary campaign by Coca-Cola or the old lockers in Adidas shops in which the entire history of the brand was explained by way of legendary models. This approach does however have to be credible and authentic to this critical young generation, and this is where regional claims sometimes lose their way… ‘Real fresh New York Pizza’ in London? ‘Australian Homemade ice cream’ in Brussels? The youth of today see right through such false marketing approaches.
  2. Allow customers to feel, touch and try. The Apple Store in London (the largest in the world) where everyone gets the opportunity and space to try things out is a good example of this. Hamleys toy store also always provides a fun and playful atmosphere where products can be tried out. When young people are permitted to touch and try something out for themselves, they automatically gain confidence in that which is being sold.
  3. Shops and brands should help make it easier and quicker for young people to make choices in a climate of product overload. Shops that provide an overall picture of their offer at a glance and which do not come across as disorderly get extra points for “coolness”. A good example of this is the skate street wear shop Vans, whose entire range is represented by a single recognisable shoe sole. Gen Y is the most over-stimulated generation ever. They have had TV’s and games consoles in their bedrooms since childhood, and receive an SMS from their friends every 5 minutes. Although we call this generation stimulus junkies, they would sometimes like to find some peace and quiet and make simple choices. ‘Less is more ‘, this is something one of the most popular brands of Generation Y, Apple (our hearts and minds go out to the family and friends of Apple-founder Steve Jobs, who passed away yesterday), has known all along.

This blogpost is based on a pressrelease InSites Consulting has sent out yesterday.

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