Trying to be "cool" is ultimately a futile effort, because that effort in and of itself seemingly makes one "uncool". Doubly so for brands that are trying to chase trends rather than set them. In an attempt to sound like billion-dollar corporations are in fact run by chill 22-year-olds who "get it", you can end up coming across like a satirical meme. Nevertheless, companies try to chase the youth market by sounding like parents trying desperately to stay relevant by using the latest slang that has filtered through to them, perhaps because they haven't bothered to actually talk to any of the young people they're trying to sell to.
Nevertheless, Procter & Gamble have become the latest company to try and court youth dollars with potentially misguided efforts. In this case, the company has filed trademarks on the texting phrases LOL, NBD, FML and WTF, with the ultimate goal of using the phrases on cleaning and household products. The effort is an acknowledgement that the company's market share has slipped and a desire to make inroads with millennials through ham-fisted branding changes.
The BBC sites new Proctor & Gamble investor Nelson Peltz as a potential instigator for such changes, and points to a CNBC interview in which he declares that younger consumers are looking for niche products to which they have an emotional attachment, apparently developed through hackneyed slang printed on toilet bowl cleaner or bottles of bleach. Those eager for the days of emoji laundry detergent will have to be patient; the company's trademark application hasn't yet been approved, and the USPTO has reached out to Proctor & Gamble for clarification on the filing.
And to tread slightly off of our usual IP beat, I would take a moment to editorialize and suggest that the notion that millennial buyers are so easily taken in by branding that is slightly less stodgy than what previously existed but no less corporate in its origin is to condescend to the under-35 crowd. As this Branding Mag article point out:
"Millennials are not some exotic and elite force empowered with technology and insights that we can’t possibly understand. They are just another generation of 20- and 30-somethings who want what they have always wanted—they just have new tools for obtaining it."
So while some seemingly fun trademarks might seem like a magic key to unlock millennial wallets, perhaps young people want more or less what consumers of any age do, which are good products at a good value, with perhaps a bit more social consciousness than we've seen in the past — all things companies would be able to figure out if they took the time to figure out what millennials want rather than what others think they want.