Behavioral Science

Is Your Brand Cool?: 4 Things All Cool Brands Do

by . October 25th, 2012

A lot of young entrepreneurs often consider ideas they might believe are “cool”. A few minutes online or on TV will tell you that nearly everyone who wants to send their message across will try to look the part. The idea of “cool” clearly has a market – but as many of us find out as we come of age, what is cool can be difficult to pin down.

In the New Yorker article, “The Coolhunt”,cool is given three characteristics:

  • “The act of discovering what’s cool is what causes cool to move on”
  • “Cool cannot be manufactured, only observed”
  • “[Cool] can only be observed by those who are themselves cool”.

The undefinable idea of being “truly cool” aside, I would have to disagree with the second and third statements. With the right approach to research it’s almost certainly possible you can figure out what a certain group of people might find cool.

True, you might not be on the leading edge of what’s in, but general the characteristics of what’s current are pretty predictable (and for the cynical, exploitable) for most purposes.

How do you do it?

1) Your product and approach has to be relevant to your target market.

This part is only difficult if you aren’t in tune with your market. Please do that.

Yogi Bear symbolizes obviousness2) Your product should be better than average.

You don’t even need the best possible product out there. All you need to do is demonstrate some marginal worth over what you could usually find on the market. Make sure the improvements in quality do not go against the identity or the way the target group presents itself. For instance, fermented shrimp paste is absolute magic for a lot of veggie-centric Asian dishes, but will render your offer non-vegan/vegetarian and non-Kosher.

3)Product price and presentation should be aspirational- but not too aspirational.

Personally sounds stupid to me, but but the data and the social science behind it checks out. If you price something too low – generally not cool. If “cool” is how you want to present your brand, buying into it should be seen as an act that puts the buyer in some exclusive club.

Having to pay a bit more to join that club sends an unconscious signal of exclusivity.But if you raise the price barrier over what your target market is prepared to generally pay, whoever buys in will likely be viewed a nerd, or as someone who tries too hard – not cool at all.

4) Your product should reinforce ideas associated with your target market.

If you’re still reading at this point, you’ll have realized that to market cool is to go into the ugly business of understanding ego and identity. Which ideas you’d want to reinforce will bring up ethical questions.  The implications of this part are huge and issues about negative stereotyping and profiling can come up.



To make everything really simple, you only really need to do a couple of things to market the idea of “cool”. Find the very limit of what is attainable for your market, go beyond that ever so slightly, then sell it.

Be warned though- “cool” and “timeless”, while related, aren’t the same thing. Cool will always move on – and your strategies with it.

Cool? Yes. Timeless? Probably not.

Cool? Yes. Timeless? Probably not.
If you can, try aiming for timeless. We’ll tell you how to do that as soon as we figure it out ourselves.


Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.