‘Cool’, Branding and Marketing

The word ‘cool’ has entered in currency of language, especially that of young people. The term enjoys a distinct and well defined meaning in dictionary. It implies a state when something is ‘neither warm nor very cold or is moderately cold’.  Coo’ is also used in contexts other than relating to temperature. Many times cool is used to signify character of a person, place or brand.  Anything that is considered to be cool enjoys attraction and hence enjoys customer following. On the other hand, a perception of ‘un-cool’ has a value robbing effect from a product, place or phenomenon. 

Subversion: The term cool in marketing has gained currency by an act of subversion. Cool brands appropriate a property appropriated independent of their product attributes. Rather this property is acquired from culturally created symbols. Cool is an acquired or instilled property into a brand which makes it dear and liked. Being a cool brand can reverse the effects of free market enterprise system and provide escape routes to monopoly creation by abstracting a quantifiable value into a symbol of expression and identification. The outcomes that can be obtained by Cool phenomenon are tangible but the term itself remains elusive and fuzzy. But it is a precious resource which can be leveraged to create superior market results. Grossman called Cool as the ‘most precious natural resource’ which can make an otherwise substitutable product ‘fantastically valuable’. Cool in this contextualization assumes position like a marketing resource.

Genesis: One of the parallel words that can be traced in a dictionary to the cool is calm. Calm state implies freedom from agitation, excitement and disturbance. Cool psychologically is about reining emotions and thereby controlling physiological and physical response to internal or external stimuli. The term cool is therefore traceable to groups like slaves, prisoners and others on the fringes of society. During the periods when slavery characterized a dominant Western practice, slaves were forced into developing a psychological state of being able to detach from the oppressive surroundings as it was the only way to survive. Cool is about disguise and deceit. A deeper and more profound connection can be drawn between the terms cool and equanimity.Equanimity is one of the core tenets in Buddhist philosophy. The state of equanimity implies that one is not ruled by passion, desires, likes and dislikes influence of passion, desires, likes and dislikes. In Hindu philosophy ,transcendence from attachment to joys and aversion to misery is cultivation of equanimity.

Cool and consumption: The term cool it seems has been exported out of its original context to mainstream popular culture. Miles Davis is known for his jazz music, a form of music has an element of confrontation of blacks with European music. Jazz has a strong connection with the time of slavery in the United States. Jazz evolved in twenties and was perceived by older generations as something hostile to old values and culture and promotion of decadent values associated with twenties. Two facets of coolness are social desirability and rebelliousness.  Cool has also been linked with a category of people called ‘hipster’.  Their ideology was based on the rejection of what was common and adoption of the bohemian, juvenile delinquent and the Negro. Hipster subscribed to an alternative lifestyle that ran counter to the mainstream ideology, it was their own liberal sensibility.  . The hipster phenomena can be seen as a quest for an alternative meaning in life through rejection of the establishment through non-conformity. 

Cool and marketing: Cool is a scarce resource capable of bringing about value transformation. Heath and Potter observed that the phenomenon of cool as counterculture has been imported into common consumption culture. The core ideology of counterculture has been appropriated by consumer culture in that capitalists sell cool as a mark of distinction to status seeking affluent people.   Brands lose appeal when they become un-cool. Brand like Levis seem to be going downhill. Many causes are attributed to its declining fortune. The blue double seamed riveted jeans become cool during fifties and sixties for associations and imagery that Levis acquired with working class typically defined as blue collar workers.  At the heart of this un-coolness was the question, how can a brand which is worn by parents be cool for the young generation? A pair of blue jeans symbolized conformity not a challenge. The brand perceptually represented the system, and new generation was looking for its own rebel identity. The jeans brands were inventing new cool which enjoyed resonance with the youth of nineties. Accordingly new cool was found in brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

 Cool is an exploitable commodity. Brands succeed by appropriation of the ideas that are considered to be cool.  The journey to becoming a cool brand necessarily has to begin with uncovering what is cool in a given customer group. 


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