Marketing Cool

How I became cool

I had one of those marketing moments this week when my 24 year old air conditioner lost its cool. My carrier of cold air gave out even though we had it on life support for the last year. It started running a fever but it eventually lost it's cool.  I sweated getting a new unit installed and the lack of cool made me think about marketing cool. What does it take for a brand to have some of this mojo? How do you know when a brand, a product or a service is cool? Here are three thoughts... 

Cool is in the eyes of the beholder. What I think is hip, someone else may find boring and bland. Cool is often, but not always, something most people don’t know about. A brand, a product or a service starts to loses its cool when it becomes too well-known. Advertising that tells me how cool something is makes it easy to know it isn't cool. 

It is as if cool is often lost by too much awareness or hype which for marketing professionals is a tricky. Yet, I still find Starbucks and Whole Foods cool places to hang out even though they are everywhere. They speak to me as brands. Recently, I learned about Tom’s Shoes and their one for one pledge. Buy my shoes and I’ll give a pair to a child in Africa. That caught my eye as cool although at first the shoes didn’t really appeal to me but to my 26 year old daughter. I don't own their shoes but I think their brand is cool. 

Another cool brand is Cameron Hughes Wines. I find their personality online to be just the right amount of irreverence and in your face. It is a breath of fresh air in a somewhat challenging wine branding environment.  If you friend them on Facebook or follow them on other social media, you'll get a taste of their attitude. They offer some exceptional wines and their approach to the industry is definitely very cool. A classic example of zigging when everyone else is zagging. Check out this article in Inc Magazine about them last month. 

Cool is achieved when a brand makes a promise or commitment and lives up to it in everything it does. It is like a friend who is constant. Microsoft and Dell will never be cool. (Farewell Zune- RIP) Apple is cool to a lot of people and as a new iPhone owner I am starting to get why especially when I started to play with Facetime.  Cool brands keep their promises.

Cool is fighting an uphill battle.  Under dogs tend to be cool to many who just love to cheer on the David’s in a world of Goliaths. Fair Trade is a brand that is high on the cool meter trying to fight out big multi-national corporations.  (Pun Alert): Talenti Gelato is another cool brand who seems to have figured out how to do something really interesting in the ice cream space in grocery stores as they fight for shelf space in search of their own coolness. Brew Dog is an upstart British beer that recently leveraged a Goliath (Diageo) who was trying to quash their victory. Cool comes from taking a stand and owning a niche, a space or some piece of real estate in the mind of the consumer. Own something and get off the fence, take a chance and the cool will be with you. 

Cool is unknown and local. There is a local sandwich shop in Raleigh called Boondini’s that is the epitome of cool. It’s the most unhip looking place but my family all craves a taste of Boondini’s chicken salad or soups that connects us back to home. Millburn Deli in Millburn, New Jersey is another example of local cool. It’s an oasis in suburban New Jersey and a Turkey Joe or a Friday Special (egg salad/tuna salad) is a thing of beauty. Coolness comes because we belong to a local tribe of fans who are devoted to the special smells that come from these kitchens and can’t be franchised. They are the antidote to McDonalds and Subways of the world and give balance to the universe. Cool is local and not something that needs to be replicated and ubiquitous. Cool is that friend who is like no one else. 

My daughter recently moved to Wilmington, N.C. and across the street is a local bar called the Goat & Compass. When she walks in and someone says, do you want a beer, suddenly a Coors Lite ends up in her hand. The goat is cool. 

My wife reminded me that her almost 45 year old piece of french toast that she saved from Tripp Lake Camp in Poland, Maine is also cool. This deserves its own blog since few people own french toast from the 1960's. 

My new AC is cooking along and things are back to 72 degrees. Now I am craving a half chicken salad from Boondini, Sea Salt Caramel gelato from Talenti or a glass of Barolo from Lot 260 from 2007 from Cameron Hughes. I'll pass on the french toast. 

Life is cool. 

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