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June 9, 2011

Make Your Brand Cool

Is your brand cool? Cool is the ultimate compliment your company or product can receive from its buying public. To be cool is to be special, superior, and of higher value than the competition, which is why coolness is such a sought-after marketing objective. And before you reject the idea that your business, product, or brand doesn’t have to be cool, think again. To be cool is to be desired and to be desired is exactly the goal of all marketing communication. Sure you want sales but first you got to be cool.

You Got To Be Cool

To be cool is definitely not the same as being trendy. Trendy is a far too ephemeral goal to invest in. Where trendy is a mere short-lived fad; cool is a statement of character.

The recent American Idol finale and pop culture sideshow illustrates perfectly what I’m talking about. Lady Gaga, the Queen of Trendy, put on a performance that may have wowed her twelve-year old fans but will surely be regarded in the future as merely a bizarre, over-the-top, vulgar circus act; whereas senior citizens Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, and Steven Tyler all delivered remarkable displays of class, cool, and resilience despite their obvious decline in vocal chops. You won’t be seeing fans lineup to see Gaga fall off a staged-cliff in her underwear when she’s cashing her old age pension.

If you run a Internet business, you know you have to be pop culture savvy, not always the easiest thing to do when things change so quickly, another reason why “cool” needs to be the goal, not “trendy.” When businesses make the mistake of confusing coolness with trendiness they are looking for trouble, unfortunately being cool is the antithesis of most business mindsets. But if you’ve got the “cojones” you can make your business cool.

What’s Cool?

To be cool is to be confident in your decision to be different, to ‘zig’ when everyone else ‘zags,’ and to stay the course when everyone tells you you’re nuts. Apple Computer is probably the biggest success story in business today. This is a company that was given-up for dead by the experts more times than Elvis has been sighted wolfing down fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. This company sells expensive products at higher margins than anybody else, it makes a ton of money, and its stock price has gone through the roof in an economy where every business seems to want to compete with Walmart and be on Facebook. Apple is the company that built a reputation on the idea, “Think Different,” and that’s the essence of cool.

For anyone who knows anything about branding, taking the rebel’s path is the best way to establish your brand personality, and without a unique marketing identity, you have no chance of becoming the next big thing. And if you think Lady Gaga is an example of something new or different, you’re wrong; she’s nothing more than a Madonna shock-pop retread. The opportunities are there for you to take advantage of a business community that is too scared to be different or to unsophisticated to recognize the difference between cool and trendy.

How To Make Your Brand Cool

Every business needs to advertise but ads aren’t cool. Fortunately the Internet provides businesses with an opportunity to deliver ads that aren’t ads, but content in the form of Branded Entertainment. Branded Entertainment provides the vehicle for businesses to create a personality and establish their cool credentials. Branded Entertainment is the future of Web advertising. It is how you can attract and hold attention while subtly delivering your message in content – it’s a “spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down” approach.

You Got To Up Your Game

The Web is nothing more than a communication platform that is quickly converging with the 500-channel television environment. Technologies like the iPad combined with Sling Box means people can watch television and the Internet anywhere and anytime. The problem is programming, there isn’t enough of it, and the television stations with their bloated bureaucracies and budgets are limited in what they are able to deliver. The vacuum will be filled by smart Web businesses willing to invest in delivering Internet programming using branded entertainment and product placement as the means to generate the sales.

The caveat is clear: crap won’t fly, not if you want to be cool, and being cool means being desirable. Business has to get off their butts, get their heads out of the sand, and up their game. Creative programming that informs, enlightens, and entertains is where Web advertising is headed, and the train has already left the station. So business, especially small and medium sized business better get on board or they will be left behind. The Internet’s ability to even the commercial playing field will be lost in a misguided avalanche of Facebook and Twitter advice that if taken will only dilute your website’s ability to communicate your marketing message in a controlled branded environment.

Inform, Enlighten, Entertain

Like it or not your website is your main media channel and if you don’t treat it as such you will never reach your audience in a way that changes attitudes, perceptions, and behavior, particularly the behavior that results in sales.

Since the Internet’s earliest commercial use it’s been dominated by vehicles dedicated to “reach:” from Archie to Google, from MySpace to Facebook, from Gmail to Twitter, each new big deal is all about reaching an audience. Reaching an audience is certainly important, but reaching an audience alone doesn’t deliver the sales business wants or needs.

Dr. Max Sutherland, in his article “When Ads Fail, How To Diagnose Why” explains the concepts of Reach and Recognition as a means of judging advertising effectiveness. The bottom line is simple, if you don’t make an impression on your audience, you will never achieve a brand connection and you will never generate brand recall.

The road to cool brand desirability can take any number of forms but they all have three things in common: you need to inform, enlighten, and entertain in a memorable manner in order to establish the connection and recall that leads to sales.

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit,, and Contact at or telephone (905) 764-1246.