You can’t create cool. Can you?

You can’t create cool. Can you?

Let’s face it.  Everyone is envious of Apple right now.  They were the king of cool with the iPod.  But then they got out cooled.  By the iPhone.

Who doesn’t want to be the iPod or iPhone of their industry?

But that’s the rub.  The more you chase cool, the less likely you are to catch it.  That’s the premise of the book Chasing Cool: Standing Out in Today’s Cluttered Marketplace by Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman.  The book interviews brand visionaries about how they discovered, invented or in some cases, tripped over cool.

Here are a few cool deal breakers:

How many of those are you guilt of?

The book is an interesting read.  While it gets you fired up, wanting to be cool — my beef with the authors would be that 90% of their examples are retail, consumer products.  It’s a lot easier to be cool selling an iPod than it is being an accountant.

That doesn’t  make it a bad read.  Just fair warning. There’s still plenty of inspirational stories and solid reminders of how we can better invite cool into our companies.  But I would have liked it if they went one step further and helped more with the “how to” section.

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  1. Funny thing is Drew, Apple’s always been cool. Their products were always sexier than any PC, but they never took off like the iPod. Apple is generally proprietary and more expensive (even though you always got more for your money). I’ve been on a Mac since they first arrived in ’84. They went after a niche market (the graphics industry) and launched desk-top-publishing. They succeed but spent the next thousand years trying to go mass market, who were already strapped to crappy PC’s. Market share pretty much stood still until the iPod helped make people comfortable with Apple.

    iPod would never have the success it was without iTunes, that combo was brilliant. Cool goes way beyond esthetics. Cool is so many things working together and even then it may not happen.

    Lastly cool also takes a little arrogance – Thank you Mr. Jobs.

  2. Roger Hamilton says

    Apple has always been cool – except for the price of course. But premium products come with hefty price tags so Apple is mainly winning in aesthetics and many other areas except price.

  3. The mass market always seems to be about price. Niche markets care about quality. I was just over at an entrepreneur blog, and they are arguing shopping cart solutions. The last comment was a guy who switched services because he found another at under 1% less than the other guy per transaction. Ridiculous, unless of course they are all doing several hundred thousand in transactions – which I doubt, from the rest rest of the conversations.

    Roger, when I freelanced (a while back), I never counted on “promised work” for business. Inevitably it never happened or that’s all I got was the cheap stuff. I chalked it up to perceived value, the good jobs went to designers who charged what they were worth. I never looked back, when I demanded what I was worth.

    What you might consider is never divulging your hourly rate. let’s say it $150 per hour. Base the job on project pricing. This way your client gets the price he can afford and now it is up to you to be very productive to make a profit. If the project price is $1,500. before taxes, then you have 10 hours to get it done to be profitable at your rate. If you get it done sooner – bonus! If later you obviously cut into your profit. But this is where you have to be VERY aware of your productivity and use a timer to be diligent. Project pricing allows you to meet their budgets AND control your standard of service.

  4. Hi Drew,

    In my case, I’m very much slow on the trigger 🙂 – not pondering too much, but I often overlooking and tarrying to act on important or key things.

    @ Ed – excellent point about promised work!


  5. Ed,

    I also think cool involves a bit of luck and good timing. Apple has always been cool. Agreed. And a good reminder to everyone that cool does not always equal big bucks.

    It wasn’t until they combined their expertise (functional but fun user experience) with a technology that was bursting at the seams (downloading and playing music) with a very well timed play (music industry was starving for someone to help them stop illegal downloads and help them make money) that they busted it wide open.

    Cool is great…but smart business thinking/timing is what actually puts $ in the pockets. Then…and only then, does being the cool one deliver you the marketshare.


  6. Roger,

    A good brand means it never has to be about price. Look at Boes speakers. The iPhone. Harley Davidson.

    All can demand a premium price despite the fact that they have plenty of competitors who sell a similar product for a lot less.

    That’s one of the many advantages of a strong brand.


  7. Ed,

    While I think breaking free of the price game is partially about quality, I don’t think quality is the end all and be all.

    Truth be told, for most products/services, the consumers aren’t equipped to measure quality. They really can’t tell the difference…among the leading options.

    So brand needs to be more emotionally anchored. As I know you’ve written about many times before!


  8. Noob,

    Why do you think that is? What delays your decision-making? And what is lost or gained because of it?

    I’m not so sure being deliberate is a bad thing…all the time.


  9. hi Drew,
    Thanks for summarizing the book. I’d like to read it but I doubt I’ll ever find the time. That’s one of the reasons I like blog posts so much.
    I think selling cool is tough. First you’ve got to come up with something new and different, and also cool. 95% of the time you’ll probably be wrong. When you are right and find that elusive “cool” factor, you’ll be rolling in the dough, until someone else comes up with something even cooler…
    That’s why it’s sometimes easier to just stick with the “ho hum” stuff everyone needs, but have the best “ho hum” out there and provide the best customer service you can for your “ho hums”.
    Wish I could do “cool”, but for now I’ll settle for “ho hum”.
    I salute those “cool” companies though…
    ~ Steve from Pinnacle Trade Show Displays