The pursuit of cool is a potentially lucrative, if not short-lived, brand play. Cool is the subject of desire: it has the power to make products fly off the shelves and can instantly transform a product or service into the subject of envy. As a toy of the ‘in-crowd’, it needs no salesman.
But in turn, this begs the question of what is cool? Cool is a heavy mix of attitude, style, design, innovation and exclusivity. It’s about self image, admiration and approval, and can be both precious and pretentious. Cool has a magnetic allure but is often a fickle friend – effectively, it says to the masses ‘you can look but don’t touch’.
By definition, what is cool today will not be cool tomorrow; as cool cannot be mainstream. Instead cool is changeable, ephemeral and short-lived. As the saying goes, today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.
As appealing as cool is, it is only for the few – not everyone can be cool. But, there are other ways that brands can command a premium. Offering something that is luxurious and elite is arguably a more enduring and sustainable approach to building a strong emotive brand, which focuses on the psychographic profiles of a particular audience and meets their needs and desires. Innovation to satisfy the gadget fiends and early adopters; exquisite luxury to treat the elite; sleek design to address the aesthetic of the ‘in’ crowd; or street attitude to draw in the trend setting youth. Finding a degree of ‘cool’ to appeal to particular consumers is often the key to success.
So why then, did Aston Martin emerge as the UK’s coolest brand this year? It has attitude, style and panache borrowed from associations with 007, but it is not cool in a hip and trendy way. Indeed, Aston Martin could be viewed as more of a classic luxury brand rather than a cool brand, in that it has qualities that are not only timeless and enduring but highly compelling.
Cool is an accolade not a strategy. It is wrong for any brand to blindly embark on the pursuit of cool. After all, the definition is an ever moving target which makes it hard for a brand to be built around and sustained over the long term. It is better for brands to view cool as an accolade which defines them as a brand of the moment, rather than a strategy they adopt. Ultimately cool has to find you.