A Darden Professor’s Guide to Creating ‘Cool’

Lalin Anik - Cool
(Illustration by Alex Angelich, University Communications)

James Bond sipping a martini.

Beyoncé dropping her latest album and creating an internet sensation.

A young hipster grabbing cold brew coffee from the corner shop or scouring the internet for the perfect pair of shoes.

All of these are examples of the power of “cool” – that indescribable mystique that holds so much cultural capital. Most people, and nearly every brand, want to be cool. But how do they get there?

University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Lalin Anik can help.

Anik, whose research focuses on marketing and consumer behavior, wanted to understand more about what makes a product cool and how brands capitalize on that. Along with Darden graduate Johnny Miles and Ryan Hauser, an MBA candidate at the Yale School of Management, she authored an article, “A General Theory of Coolness,” and a case study on the topic, both through Darden Business Publishing.

The case study, in fact, centers on Mr. Bond and a partnership with Heineken that swapped the superspy’s signature martini for the Dutch beer in the 2012 franchise film, “Skyfall.”

“James Bond could be seen as an archetype of cool,” Anik said. “I was curious about how characters or brands like that create coolness, and if a partnership with Heineken – which does not really fit the Bond image – could change that.”

The Heineken partnership does not appear to have hurt “Skyfall” too much. It hit more than $1 billion in global ticket sales and was one of the highest-grossing films in the history of Sony Pictures. But it gave Anik, Miles and Hauser plenty to think about.

Anik explains more below.

Q. What defines coolness?
A. We identified three traits that are indispensable to coolness: autonomy, authenticity and attitude. Autonomy, arguably the most important dimension of coolness, refers to a lack of conformity or conventionality – being seen as independent or rebellious. Authenticity is simply being seen as true to one’s personality or, in the case of a brand, true to a mission or purpose. Attitude refers to that catch-22 of being cool without seeming as though you are trying to be cool. This is a challenging one for brands.

Finally, a fourth trait – association – is not essential to coolness, but it’s certainly helpful. That refers to association with a particularly cool brand, place or person – such as a celebrity spokesperson.

Q. What are some pitfalls companies or brands might encounter when they are trying to be cool?
A. There are certain norms that consumers see as illegitimate, and breaking those norms can work in a company’s favor. Breaking more legitimate norms, on the other hand, is less helpful.

Virgin Airlines is a good example of this. They broke away from the normally strict, businesslike tone of airline messaging by being animated and funny, while staying squarely within safety regulations and other norms that consumers are understandably concerned about.

In order to work, the product needs to be at least as functional as the mainstream norm. For example, spherical water bottles might seem cool, but they are impractical to hold and carry. We don’t need our Q-tips, Band-Aids or table salt to be “cool” – we just need those products to function well.

Additionally, brands should avoid excessively threatening consumer identity. Products that diverge too much from the norm could be seen as too embarrassing or rebellious. Possible examples include Romphim, a company selling one-piece rompers for men; Redneck Boot Sandals, which combine flip flops and cowboy boots; or Topshop’s clear plastic jeans. These types of cringe-worthy products that are wildly but unnecessarily creative remind us that not all marketing is good marketing.

Q. What are some examples of companies or brands that have managed to achieve and maintain coolness?
A. Adidas is one of those iconic brands that has all of the ingredients to maintain its cool over time. They are placing their stripes on world-class athletes while also instilling the consumer with nostalgia. Their Originals heritage line appeals to both Baby Boomers and vintage-loving hipsters.

There are other brands that are perceived to be cool because they operate in product and cultural categories that are appealing by nature, such as social media – i.e. Facebook and YouTube; technology – i.e. GoPro or Playstation; and athletics – i.e. Vans or Converse. The challenge these brands face is keeping up with ever-changing trends and fads while still being perceived as autonomous, authentic and having an attitude.

James Bond, of course, is an example of a franchise that is seen as perennially cool. Even the partnership with Heineken, which some derided, ultimately did not hurt Bond’s brand, and provided a boost for Heineken, thanks to that fourth factor of coolness – association.

Q. You cite Starbucks as one example in your article. What can Starbucks tell us about coolness?
A. It’s important to understand that coolness can change. That’s the tough thing about it for companies – it’s ephemeral and dependent on new generations and on what is happening in the world.

When it started, Starbucks really taught people how to drink coffee and created this whole culture around the ritual of getting your morning coffee. Then, other brands jumped onto that bandwagon. Starbucks, once perceived as original, became mainstream. Now, it’s cool not to buy Starbucks, and many people are choosing local or niche brands instead.

Q. What are some examples of brands that have failed in the pursuit of cool?
A. The clothing company Hollister Co. suffered from a failure of authenticity in 2005, when they had to pay damages to surfer Rob Havassy after using more than 300 knockoffs of his signed boards to decorate their stores. They were trying to claim the coolness of surfing culture, but were ultimately called out and criticized as deceitful and inauthentic.

More recently, Domino’s “4 Realz” campaign, where numb3rs replaced l3tt3rs, Chevrolet’s press release made up of emojis, and TXT Cellar Wines’ wines with Gen Y-inspired names like “LOL!!! Reisling” are all examples of brands pandering to what they see as millennial language. These moves are often seen as forced or inauthentic, and millennials – who have grown up with the internet – are quick to spot this and reject it.

– by Lalin Anik (Professor at University of Virginia Darden School of Business)

Originally at https://news.virginia.edu/content/qa-darden-professors-guide-creating-cool

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Clever ways to beat your smartphone addiction

Breaking the habit of repeatedly checking your phone can be hard. These tricks and apps will enforce some self-control.

The frustrating thing about a phone addiction is that unlike actual substance abuse, the solution is not to quit cold turkey. Instead, we have to find ways to use this technology responsibly, fighting apps overtly designed to steal our time.

Here are ten habits that help you control your smartphone use.

  1. Stop checking your phone when in line

For most of us, this is exactly what mobile phones are for. But if you want to lean into the boredom that’s essential for creativity and reflection, then stop checking your phone just because you are not doing anything for a minute. This might mean keeping your phone in a different pocket, so you can’t pull it out quite so unconsciously.

2. Turn off the notifications

Turn off all notifications that don’t require immediate action. You can probably leave calls and texts on, but turn off everything and every app with a `follow’ function. Turn off your email notifications too. When you download a new app, disable notifications.

  1. Don’t use your phone in bed

Establish a no-phone time in the morning and evening. To enforce it, use Freedom (iOS) or Offtime (iOSAndroid) to turn off all access to domains like Facebook, and Instagram. That way you can pick up your phone to check for important updates, while shielding yourself from your social feeds.

4. Stop checking your phone in the car

Stick your phone in the glove compartment. Android handsets come with a driving mode that switches you to voice controls. iOS 11 also includes an automatic `Do Not Disturb While Driving’ mode. If Google Assistant isn’t enough, download Drivemode for Android for a `no-look’ interface that automatically launches when you start driving.

5. Break the `checking’ cycle

Once you have checked your email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on, it’s tempting to start the loop all over again.

Instead check just one app at a time. Train your self to put your phone down after your intended action. Close apps as soon as you use them. And hide all your distracting apps off the home screen.

6. Choose an end point for your browsing session

Put your clock app on your home screen. When you open your phone, set a timer for how long you want to spend on your phone. Use QualityTime to limit how long you spend on specific apps. Also, try turning your phone off when you are done using it. This may be drastic. But try it just for a day and see the result.

7. Move your phone elsewhere when you watch TV or read

When you are out and about, it makes sense to keep your phone in your pocket. But when you get home, take it out. Leave it to charge, and try treating it like a home phone. The less often you check your phone, the less you get sucked into Twitter.

8. Don’t expect a quick fix

It’s difficult to find the right balance. We appreciate the advantages of a smartphone, and most of us use it more than we want to. These tricks work as long as you are paying attention to them, and apps keep finding new ways to invade your space. So, keep finding ways to trick your brain out of bad behaviour .

Original article at lifehacker.co.in

ULIP could be a good choice for wealth creation Life Insurance

ULIP or Unit linked insurance plan is a market-linked Insurance product that combines the very best of two – investments and insurance into one. The exciting feature of combining investments and insurance into ULIPs has brought a revolution in insurance market in India and it is now one of the most preferred choices among various life insurance products.

How do ULIPs work?

Like any other insurance plan, you need to pay premiums in ULIP. The minimum premium paying term is 5 years. However, unlike other insurance policies, the premiums paid in ULIPs are invested in a fund of your choice after deducting specified charges. These are mainly on account of mortality charges, policy administration and fund management charges.

Post investment in the fund of your choice, units are allotted to you based on the NAV (Net asset value) on the date of your investment. For example – you have paid Rs 100,000 as ULIP annual premium for 20 years, the ULIP plan will give you a life cover of Rs 10Lakhs (Life cover is minimum 10 times of the annual premium as per IRDA guidelines). After specified charges are deducted say, Rs 3,000 the amount of Rs 97,000 is invested in the fund chosen. Suppose the fund NAV is Rs 15.25 on the day you invested, so you will get 6360.6557 units(Rs 97,000/NAV of Rs 15.25).

You can check the fund performance which is reflected in the growth of the Fund NAV. The fund NAV is computed as follows –

(Market value of investments held by the fund + Value of current assets – value of current liabilities) / number of units existing on valuation date

Salient Features of ULIPs

Life Cover – As per IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) guidelines, insurance companies have to provide a minimum life cover of 10 times of annual premium in ULIPs in order to get you the tax benefit under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act 1961.

Many fund choices – You can invest in fund of your choice based on your risk profile and investment objective. You can select growth funds which invests in equities or balanced funds, which invests in both – equities as well as bonds or money market instruments.

Rebalancing your asset allocation – Some companies also offer ‘Automatic Asset Allocation’ feature in ULIP. In this unique feature, the allocation to equities reduces and increases in debt/ money market instruments as the policy term progresses. With this strategy, as your policy gets closer to maturity, funds flow from equity assets (which is riskier) to debt and money markets instruments (which are less risky), thereby protecting your investments from any short term market fluctuations.

No hidden charge – The premiums paid are subject to specified charges which is available to the policy holder when he is buying the ULIPs. Therefore, it is completely transparent. You should buy a ULIP policy where the charges are minimal.

Switching facility – ULIPs provide unique switching facility between funds. This facility is free of any charges and helps you decide which fund to remain invested with depending upon the market conditions.

Partial withdrawals – Partial withdrawals are allowed from 6th policy year onwards. This helps you meet your sudden financial requirements without hampering the plan continuity.

Tax benefits – Like other Insurance plans, premiums paid upto Rs 150,000 in a FY qualifies for tax deduction under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act 1961. Since ULIPs are insurance plans, maturity proceeds along with gains are also tax-free under Section 10(10d) of The Income Tax Act.

Conclusion

Enhancing your hard earned money is as important as earning it. As you make efforts to create wealth, you can count on ULIPs to grow it sustainably. As we have seen the choice of automatic asset allocation feature of some of the ULIP plans ensures that you can grow your wealth at sustainable rate based on your desired asset allocation at different life stages.

Insurance is the subject matter of the solicitation

by Priyanka Chakrabarty, at https://www.advisorkhoj.com/articles/Life-Insurance/ULIP-could-be-a-good-choice-for-wealth-creation