Cool Hunting: what's the big deal?

So Crirpin Porter and Boguski (the advertising agency) are up for the challenge of making Microsoft cool again. Not an easy task.

According to many analysts, Microsoft has really lost control of its image... becoming cool is going to be very difficult in a world where Apple has been calling the shots for a while.

Makes me wonder. Cool has become such an important buzzword. There is a whole science of cool and how to get it. Numerous websites like coolhunting, trendunter etc are reporting the latest cultural trends. Everybody wants to be on the cutting edge.

But what is meaning of cool? How important is it? Do you really need to be cool regardless of the market and the category? Can you survive if you are not cool?

According to wikipedia "Cool is an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, comportment, appearance, style and Zeitgeist. Because of the varied and changing connotations of cool, as well its subjective nature, the word has no single meaning. It has associations of composure and self-control and often is used as an expression of admiration or approval."

Let me repeat this: it is about admiration or approval. Cutting edge or classic. Mainstream or controversial. Safe or risky. Character is irrelevant, it's all about the end result.

So what/who is considered cool today? No great surprises according to one of my favorite source of brand health data (Brandtags ).

I checked a number of brands and I tried to see how "cool" ranks in terms of "strength of association with these brands". Not surprisingly, Puma, Mini and Apple clearly topped the list, defining the essence of cool. Brands like Absolute, Harley and Adidas also had a very strong association, although there were other elements defining their personality. Then there was a third layer of brands including anything from Ferrari and Playstation to Heineken and Blackberry (!), where cool was just one of the elements of their personality. Lastly, brands like Facebook or Nintendo had a good association with coolness, probably coming from very specific target groups.

So what's the moral of the story? Well, if you are one of these brands, your challenge is to stay on the cutting edge. I guess it is very difficult to change your strategy once you have decided to play the "cool" game. For everybody else it's a whole different game. Too many options:

Do you try to deconstruct cool in order to create your own proposition?
Do you look outside the existing models and try to invent a new space?
Or do you just forget about cool altogether and position your brand differently?

As someone said "To chase cool, you’re chasing something that already exists, which means you’re always going to be on the wrong side of it, you’ll always be following." Traditional marketing research will only cover the areas that already exist, focusing on those things that people consider cool today.

So being original and authentic is the only way to go. But I guess you knew that already. Being authentic is easier said that done and that is why it creates admiration and approval.