As I was perusing Facebook the other day, I stumbled upon the following picture posted by a friend:

For reasons unknown to me, I inserted the letter “r” into “bands” while reading this shirt, and I thought to myself, “What a cool shirt!”  Then I read it again, realized my mistake, and thought immediately that the shirt was a lot less cool.  After all, I can’t recall all the times I’ve had to listent to some burnout telling me about how music these days is nothing like it used to be in the “good ole days.”  Of course, I tend to agree with him that music today sucks, but I’m sure he’d disagree with me that the music of the 90’s was awesome.  Surely it’s no coincidence that the 90’s happened to be my formative music-listening years…

But back to the point:  cool brands.  My initial, albeit incorrect, reading of the shirt made me curious about what the “cool brands” had been over the years and whether there were any defining characterstics that people could use to capture cool.  Using the magical powers of cool-brand Google, I did some totally non-scientific research and reviewed some cool brands of the 80’s, the 90’s, and today.  After racking my brain, I had difficulty discerning any particular trends other than recognizing that: (1) things that were cool in the 80’s and 90’s really aren’t any more; and (2) the 90’s was big on clothes.

People smarter than me have tried to quantify brand appealability.  And while “appeal” may not be the same as “cool”, it seems that people think the quantification of these concepts might ultimately be possible on some level.  For me however, I think brand coolness is ultimately a subjective concept, and you’re going to have a difficult time setting up a brand that will start out and remain cool over any long period of time.  Like the old guy in the picture, our views on brands will necessarily be colored by who we were and what we were doing when we encountered the brands.

Which leads me to my next point:  I don’t think you can ultimately force a “cool” brand.  After all, the entire concept of “cool” is about not trying too hard (or at least it was when I was a kid).  I’m certainly no branding expert, but it seems to me that reaching the “cool” stage is not the result of conscious effort, but is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle…or a shark in a tornado.  In my view, its better to strive for something that is memorable and/or informative.  While it may not ultimately reach the pantheon of “cool”, it will give you a strong foundation for developing and marketing your product or service.