Everytime a new CoolBrands or Superbrands survey is released part of the brand strategist in me dies a little, so I loved Mark Ritson’s article “CoolBrands’ bananas methodology is a stain on modern branding”. His destruction of the methodology and purpose of the survey is both hilarious and painfully true – I’d recommend it to anyone.
But it isn’t just the crazy methodologies that I object to. The implication of the survey is that it’s good to be ‘cool’. Ritson does a far better job than I ever could of pulling apart coolbrands’ cool definition, and I’m more concerned with the fact that only a tiny % of brands would ever want to achieve coolness. What about the brands who want to be trusted, or be loved, or make shareholders a shedload of cash?
And it’s not just the fact that coolness is the objective of a tiny number of organisations that frustrates me. The bigger issue is that coolness, trust, and love - the mainstays of these types of ‘Top 20’ surveys - are all outcomes, not inputs. They’re not something that a brand should ever be built around, as they can’t successfully guide a brand’s actions and behaviours.
It reminds me of the old saying: don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh.
Brands need to think in the same way; they need to express what they do that makes them cool, or makes them loved or makes them trusted. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he didn’t implore his designers to make cool products, he asked them to make something that was ‘good enough to lick’. They did, and that’s why they’re the coolest brand.
What brands really need to do is define what they are going to do in order to achieve their overall purpose (whether it’s to be cool, be loved or be trusted, for example). If you have created a differentiated brand position, you shouldn’t need to worry that others may be cooler, more loved or trusted more. You should have quantified the market that will be attracted to your own position if it’s delivered irresistibly.
We use the Brand Alignment Monitor to understand how well aligned brands are. Are brands delivering their positioning, values and personality throughout the customer experience?
Using this methodology, which focuses on tracking brands in the way that they’re built today (through the delivery of the customer experience, not through communications), we can see that ALDI and Ryanair are brilliantly aligned brands. They may not be as sexy as Ray-Ban (for example, and number 2 in this year’s coolbrands list), but they deliver their brands with a far more impressive consistency than someone who relies on third parties to distribute their brand experience.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be cool, but we’ve all scoffed at the Dad dressed just like his son, or the Mum who hangs out with her daughter’s friends. Ultimate coolness comes from being comfortable in your own skin, and brands that know who they are and deliver an irresistible customer experience that’s true to their positioning are always the coolest.