Being hip is cool.
Until it isn’t.
In fact, some would say that the only thing worse than being uncool is having once been hip only to lose that designation… If you don’t believe me, do David Hasselhoff, Nickelback, or Disco ring a bell?
Die-hards are offended when I say this, but each of those three has experienced a precipitous drop in their cool factor as compared to their peak popularity.
The Power of Branding: When guiding companies through transformation, I apply a rigorous method called “theBigRocks of Change”. In doing so, I often work with clients to create a simple, powerful brand for their strategic endeavors. This brand becomes a metaphor that can act as “glue” to bind together change-related work activities, communications, milestones, and recognition. Having a clear, compelling brand can be especially useful when the transformation impacts the entire organization and the changes wrapped up in the initiative promise to be profound.
As we go through this branding process, I often have to caution clients against over-relying on popular culture icons, current media-driven trends and catchy commercial references. The reason? While these metaphors are relevant and attention-grabbing during the time that they’re popular, they tend to wear out quickly and attract the wrong kind of attention once the cultural reference gets dated. They can also be subject to negative fallout if the external icon takes a hit. (Examples: you don’t see Lance Armstrong, Rob Lowe, Tiger Woods or Bill Cosby endorsing many products these days.)
Branding Guidelines: So be careful when branding your transformation and stick to things that last.
Make sure your brand:
- Focuses on the serious attributes of your change.
- Highlights the positive elements of your organization’s culture.
- Points out the most meaningful benefits of your strategy.
- Recognizes the challenges it will face and deal with.
- Shines light on the best of what you plan to do and the great people who will help you realize that vision.
With the serious stuff out of the way, and just for fun, here are three interesting stories about being hip that I heard while listening to podcasts and reading through my newsfeed over the past weekend:
1. “LOL is Out – Replaced by Haha and Hehe”. Facebook did a contextual word study of all posts and comments in a 7-day window toward the end of May 2015. (Yes, they can read all of our posts. You didn’t seriously think there was any sort of privacy on Facebook, did you?)
Here are the results straight from Facebook’s blog:
- “We analyzed … posts and comments posted on Facebook in the last week of May … 15% of people included laughter in a post or comment … The most common laugh is haha, followed by various emoji and hehe. … [T]he vast majority of people … are haha-ers (51.4%), then … emoji lovers (33.7%), the hehe-ers (12.7%), and finally, the lol-ers (1.9%).
Take note if you are among the 2% still using LOL. You might as well be using AOL, because you are the subject your kids are texting “haha” and “hehe” about from across the living room.
2. “Donald Trump is the New Nickelback of the Republican Party!”
Some argue “the Donald” is making a mockery of the nomination process. Others are crying foul as he consumes all the oxygen in the room. Some honestly believe he’s going to ride a wave of voter disgust into the White House, but pundits caution anyone from placing the Presidential crown on that comb-over just yet.
The so-called political experts say that even if Trump shocks the world and wins the party nod, there is virtually no way he can win over enough voters to take the 2016 general election because too many people in the broader electorate have such an awful opinion of him that they have already decided they would never vote for him. Even if he looks to be winning and enjoying the process, he’s apparently doomed.
Likewise, even though Nickelback stills sells millions of records to die-hards, don’t bet on them to win Rock and Roll Artist of the Year as long as they engender such revulsion from the folks who take their cue from pop media.
So let’s recap: Trump was cool as the Angry Boss on TV last year, very hip as the “Tell-it-like-it-is” candidate last week but the pundits predict he will be an uncool smoldering pariah by the Spring.
Whatever happens, it should be good for the ratings.
3. Do People Still Say That? I hope you don’t use any of these worn-out terms that were designated on Lake Superior State University’s 40th Annual List of Words to be Banished for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness:
— Skill set
— Fill in-the-Blank-Nation
Wow. They’re right – I AM tired of hearing these terms.
Even though it seems they just came out a year ago and I only got the hang of using them a few months ago. I guess this just proves I’m out of step.
Here are a few more terms LSSU banished over the previous few years only to have many tragically unhip slow-pokes miss the memo:
— 2014: “Twittersphere”, So&So-on-Steroids”, “Anything-pocolypse” and “Anything-ageddon”
— 2013: Kick the Can Down the Road”, “YOLO”, “Bucket List” and “Double-Down”
— 2012: “Amazing”, “the New Normal” and “Win the Future”
— 2011: “Wow Factor”, “Epic”, “Fail”, “Just Sayin’”, “Aha Moment”, BFF” and “Man Up”
— 2010: “Shovel-Ready”, “Friend” (as a verb), “Bromance:, “Chillaxin’” and “Too Big to Fail”
— 1989: “Miss the Memo”
Did you notice how the words got more stale and outdated as the list continued? Of course they did. Even the slowest trend-trackers eventually catch on that these things are just not hip anymore.
Summary: To wrap it up, let’s get back to what this all means for Change Agents.
When you brand your change, go ahead and shoot for fresh.
Target new and clever.
Just avoid hip.
Stick to the things that matter to the organization and the references that will last in your culture. You introduce an unnecessary risk if you tie your change to a cool, but date-able external metaphor, and you may end up out of fashion before you’ve even finished implementing the change.
…and wouldn’t that be like, such an amazing, epic fail, dude?
Questions for Chatter:
- Name something that was once the hottest thing in your company’s culture but is now looked upon as tired and over-worn. Is anyone (specially in a leadership role) still using that reference as if it’s current?
- What’s something that was once cool to you that you would now be embarrassed to tell people you were into? Whatever you just thought of is an exaggerated example of what you can expect if you tie your long-term strategic transformation to a hip metaphor.