What makes a brand cool?

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.

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4 Responses to What makes a brand cool?

  1. yanagergalo says:

    Nice post!

  2. ellamarih says:

    Hi Anna! Good subject you have here. It’s true that we often desire things that make us feel like we fit in. I think that coolness of a brand also varies a lot. If u think for example Nokia’s mobile phones. At the 90’s they we’re the most popular phones of all but now Nokia’s phones have a bad image and they are not cool anymore. So brand’s “coolness level” can change really fast from cool to uncool and the other way round. You were also asking about the cool and the uncool brands. In my opinion many cool brands are expensive. If you think about Michael Kors or Louis Vuitton’s bags, Nike’s shoes or Apple’s phones. They are all so cool and desirable brands, but also expensive. So I guess almost every brand that is famous and owns high status, is considered cool. And almost every brand that follows fashion and is up to date, is supposedly cool.

  3. henaheii says:

    I think defining coolness is very challenging since it changes over the time. In my opinion being cool is about doing or having something new/refreshing, unique or trending. Especially what will be trending is hard to say. People together decide that. However sometimes there’s trend setters, whose opinions and actions define coolness.

    All in all this topic is hard to put out analytically since it’s about emotions and social factors. Good blog, it made me think about coolness and social trends in general!

  4. vayrynenkira says:

    You wrote about an intriguing subject that really made me think what coolness is all about. The way I see it coolness is often influenced by current trends so it’s hard to define what will be cool, let’s say, in couple of years from now. As Ella mentioned earlier, Nokia phones used to be very cool, probably for being innovative and fairly new thing at the time. In my opinion cool brands are the ones who can provide original products and services with a good quality yet are able to respond to current trends at the same time. From my point of view Nike and Adidas are some very trending and hyped brands right now.

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