Aston Martin, Apple, Ray-Ban, Pret A Manger, Chanel, Rolex, Netflix, Nike, Bang & Olufsen, Tangle Teezer… pretty cool brands, don’t you think?
Cool brands are desired by both consumers and marketers and it’s no wonder why; coolness is exiting, it adds symbolic value to a product and leads the trends. Almost everyone wants to be cool, but if you ask ‘what is coolness?’ it’s not the easiest question to answer.
I think that an urge to fit in is a characteristic of the human nature and we often desire things that make us feel like we fit in. It seems that consumers prefer cool brands in situations where they want to stand out more than fit in. It proves that, even though coolness is a desired and positive feature, it’s not necessarily a synonym for desirability.
So what coolness actually means? Coolness is a socially created feature which means that objects can only be cool if people consider them cool. Also, coolness is always subjective and dynamic. What is perceived cool is different across consumer groups, and changes over time. For example, in my opinion Spotify is a super cool brand but someone else might think that it’s totally lame, and the only cool way to listen to music is vinyl records from the 70s.
Okay, now we know what coolness is but the question is what makes things cool? Some people say that a brand can become cool by copying a behaviour of other cool brands. Others think that the best way is to conform to the particular norms and ideals of subcultures. Coolness has also been seen as rebellious attitude.
There definitely is a strong link between autonomy and coolness since coolness requires doing your own thing. Autonomous brands follow their own motivations and ideals which can make them cool.
Still it’s not as simple as that. If being cool was easy, there would not be any uncool brands. Autonomy can only increase coolness when the autonomy seems appropriate. Diverging from an illegitimate norm increases coolness, but diverging from a legitimate norm decreases it. Saving tigers and giving money to poor people is cool. Child labor and animal testing is not cool.
In your opinion, what makes a brand cool? Can you give example of brands that are cool and brands that are not?
Source: Caleb Warren & Margaret C Campbell, What Makes Things Cool? How Autonomy Influences Perceived Coolness, Journal of Consumer Research, August 2014, Vol. 41 Issue 2.