How is Cool Influenced?


I read an article questioning whether or not
Apple had lost, or is losing, its cool. Why should Apple be any less cool than
it was several years ago? After all, it’s the most valuable company in the
world at the moment. Is it because Steve Jobs and his dynamic, rebel
personality are gone? I’m not so sure about that because as an Apple user I
think the company’s products are fantastic and I’d imagine long time users
would say the products are better than ever.

As I started to ponder “cool,” it brought to
mind an episode from The Office in
which Michael Scott was trying to plan a celebration of his 15-year anniversary
with Dunder-Mifflin. To do this he enlisted the help of Jim, Pam and Dwight. At
one point during the brainstorming session Jim said of Dwight’s idea, “Now
you’re trying too hard and that’s just not cool.” Dwight responded, “Then I
guess I just don’t know what cool is.”
This begs the question, “What is cool?” I’m
dating myself with this reference but for those who grew up in the ‘70s one of
the icons of cool was Fonzie from the television show Happy Days. Fonzie was cool because he was so different from
Richie, Potsy, Ralph and the rest of the cast. Part of Apple being cool is that
it’s always been different than its competition. The tough part about that in
business is you never stay different for long.
Samsung’s Galaxy phone has many of the same
features the iPhone has and it has some things you can’t get with the iPhone
like the bigger screen. Marketing the bigger screen taps into the principle of scarcity. This principle of influence tells us people value things and want
them more when they’re less available, unique or different.
I believe scarcity goes to the heart of cool.
Fonzie was cool because he was different, a one of a kind. Part of the cool
factor for Apple is how it stays ahead of the curve with technology and usually
offers you something, or a package of things, you can’t get elsewhere.
Consider this question. If everyone had
dressed like Fonzie in Happy Days would
we have seen him as being so cool? Probably not. If everyone has an iPhone do
you think people will view it as being quite as cool as years ago? Probably not,
even if the technology is better.
Like beauty, cool is also relative. A
beautiful woman will not stand out as much when every woman is beautiful. If
you doubt that consider beauty pageants where every woman is a knockout but most
contestants quickly fad into the background as the pageant progresses. However,
those same women in your office, at the mall, or on the street would turn heads
because in those environments they’d stand out compared to the population in
general. That’s scarcity again, along with the compare and contrast phenomenon.
Much of cool’s scarcity comes in based on what
it’s compared to. Kids think they’re cool compared to their parents but within
the group of teens at school some of those same kids may not be considered cool
at all.
Ever notice how celebrities continually
reinvent themselves? Think Madonna, the queen of reinvention! Part of the
reason celebrities change so much is because their cool factor wears off as their
looks and character traits become more commonplace.
So how do you use this to be more influential?
Two areas to consider are you as an individual and your company.
When it comes to you on a personal level what
makes you unique compared to your peers and competition? I’ve seen people whose
signature is a bow tie and others who always wear colored shirts. Both stand
out in the world of dark suits, white shirts and regular ties. Remember, cool
is up to you to make. Being a “nerd” became cool after Revenge of the Nerds hit movie screens. All of a sudden being
really smart was cool if you could use that in ways to benefit others.
When it comes to promoting your company what
makes it stand apart from the competition? Does your business card look like
everyone else’s? Boring! Remember, if you do everything like the competition
then nothing stands out and you get no cool factor. In recent years many
insurance companies have gone from boring and bland to  much cooler through humorous ads. No longer do
people think of them as giant companies run by a bunch of grey–haired, middle-aged
men. They have a much younger, hip feel based on their ads now.
Whether it’s you personally or your company it
comes down to this; take time to consider your uniqueness. Can you combine that
with your strengths and passion to stand apart from your peers? If you can
leverage that you’ll gain some cool and probably more customers because
everyone loves cool.

Brian, CMCT®
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

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