How do brands maintain their cool?
University researchers have formulated a scale of 10 characteristics defining “coolness” that can be used to assess if a brand is becoming cool and staying cool.
According to the study from professors at the University of Michigan, cool brands are often perceived to be:
- Aesthetically appealing
- High status
Not all of the characteristics are necessary for every brand and every consumer segment, but increasing any of these characteristics tends to make a brand seem cooler. Marketers can diagnose a brand’s strengths and weaknesses against the 10 components in order to make adjustments.
“Our structural model allows managers to drill down into which component of coolness are of greater importance in shaping overall coolness and how these might vary across geographies, consumer segments and time,” said Richard Bagozzi, a co-author and University of Michigan professor, in a statement.
Typically, brands first become “niche cool,” or hip to a small subculture. Examples included Quicksilver with surfers; Rocawear, hip-hop enthusiasts; Supreme, skaters; and Apple, technology geeks. Niche cool brands stand out for five components: original, authentic, rebellious, exceptional and aesthetically pleasing.
Extending to “mass cool” means embracing broader characteristics such as popular and iconic. Mass cool brands offer greater profit potential, although becoming more popular to mainstream consumers risks becoming uncool.
The study implied that staying mass cool involves retaining some of the characteristics that made a brand niche cool.
Nike’s deep connections with elite athletes and its controversial marketing moves, for instance, have helped it be perceived as authentic and rebellious. Apple’s positioning as an edgier alternative to Microsoft has helped it retain numerous coolness characteristics.
Brands such as Google or Samsung are seen as more energetic and original by continuously innovating. Patagonia is perceived as authentic because of its founder’s messaging.
The researchers, however, said more research needs to be done to explore “how brands change as they move from niche cool to mass cool to passé.”
- Creating a coolness strategy for your brand – University of Michigan
- Brand Coolness – Journal of Marketing
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the benefits and limitations to brand managers of the measurement model of brand coolness presented in the study? What advice would you have for brands concerned about losing their cool as they move from “niche cool” to “mass cool”?