Designers rebrand the tabloid definition of cool

Designers are questioning the nature of ‘cool’ when applied to brands, after research published last week outlined the world’s ostensibly ‘coolest’ brands.

According to an independent panel, the new VW Beetle, Selfridges, Diesel, Jaguar, Sony and British Airways London Eye are the brands ‘with the coolest design’.

But social commentator and marketing consultant Peter York says the research is ‘meaningless’.

‘The exercise itself is the antithesis of cool,’ he says.

Marc Woodhouse, creative director at youth marketing specialist Third Planet agrees ‘cool’ can’t be bottled. ‘[This survey] is a mass definition, tabloid view of cool. Grassroots cool brands aren’t in the public domain.’

Cool brands, he adds, are ‘true to themselves – if they’re telling you they’re cool, they’re not’.

Research International, which undertook the study, identified 60 brands as ‘cool brand leaders’. The top five are, in order: Alexander McQueen, Bang & Olufsen, Agent Provocateur, Tate and Ducati.

Dave creative director Robbie Laughton says, ‘I’d question the definition of cool. They’ve gone for the hip definition, but cool doesn’t necessarily mean Soho sexy. I’d like to see a smart [category-defining] brand like First Direct – by far the coolest bank – included.’

The Brand Council agrees the concept of cool is difficult to define. ‘[Cool] is highly subjective,’ says Brand Council brand liaison director Stephen Cheliotis. ‘We have tried to come up with a collection of brands that lead their field and inspire a strong desire among consumers.’

Among the top 60 brands chosen, many are design-led, Cheliotis adds. ‘From Vespa to Bang & Olufsen to Top Shop, design and innovation are at the heart of what they do,’ he says.

Imagination marketing and strategic planning director Ralph Ardill, a panel member, believes ‘coolness’ in brands can be defined by spontaneity and freedom. ‘Brands obsessed with managing their image lack that authentic, “off-the-record” appeal,’ he says.

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