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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Two Sales Persons

Mukesh and Anil joined a company together a few months after their graduation from university.

After a few years of work, their Manager promoted Mukesh to a position of Senior Sales Manager, but Anil remained in his entry level Junior Sales Officer position.

Anil developed a sense of jealousy and disgruntlement, but continued working anyway.

One day Anil felt that he could not work with Mukesh anymore. He wrote his resignation letter, but before he submitted it to the Manager, he complained that Management did not value hard working staff, but only promoted the favoured one!

The Manager knew that Anil worked very hard for the years he had spent at the company; even harder than Mukesh and therefore he deserved the promotion. So in order to help Anil to realize this, the Manager gave Anil a task.

“Go and find out if anyone is selling water melons in town?”

Anil returned and said, “yes there is someone!”

The Manager asked, “how much per kg?” Anil drove back to town to ask and then returned to inform the Manager; “they are Rs 13.50 per kg!”

The Manager told Anil, “I will give Mukesh the same task that I gave you.”

So the Manager said to Mukesh, in the presence of Anil; “Go and find out if anyone is selling water melons in town?”

Mukesh went to find out and on his return he said:

“Manager, there is only one person selling water melons in the whole town. The cost is Rs 49.00 each water melon and Rs 32.50 for a half melon. He sells them at Rs 13.50 per kg when sliced. He has in his stock 93 melons, each one weighing about 7kg.

He has a farm and can supply us with melons for the next 4 months at a rate of 102 melons per day at Rs 27.00 per melon; this includes delivery.

The melons appear fresh and red with good quality, and they taste better than the ones we sold last year.

He has his own slicing machine and is willing to slice for us free of charge.

We need to strike a deal with him before 10 a.m. tomorrow and we will be sure of beating last year’s profits in melons by Rs 223. This will contribute positively to our overall performance as it will add a minimum of 3.78% to our current overall sales target.

I have put this information down in writing and is available on spreadsheet.

Please let me know if you need it as I can send it to you in fifteen minutes.”

Anil was very impressed and realized the difference between himself and Mukesh. He decided not to resign but to learn from Mukesh.

Let this story help us keep in mind the importance of going an extra mile in all our endeavours.

You won’t be rewarded for doing what you’re meant to do, you only get a salary for that! You’re only rewarded for going an extra mile; performing beyond expectations.

To be successful in life you must be observant, proactive and willing to do more, think more, have a more holistic perspective and go beyond the call of duty…

Beware: 7 retailer tricks that make you spend more

If you are planning a shopping binge this festive season—online or offline—make sure you don’t fall prey to these retailer tricks.

Decoy Pricing

This tactic is used by many stores.

If a product worth Rs 1,000 is placed next to those worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,100, you are likely to pick the Rs 1,000 product and think of it as a good deal.

It’s a diversion to make the costly items seem economical. It’s also used in restaurants, where menus list high cost items next to cheaper ones.

Open the Wallet

At the checkout counter, have you noticed small items like low-priced wallets, accessories, snacks and chocolates?

They are there for a reason. After an exhaustive shopping session, you are an easy prey with little self-control. So you will easily succumb to chocolates and small items.

Downloading Apps

How many e-commerce apps have you downloaded on your phone?

Even if you are not an avid shopper, you may succumb to regular alerts and messages of early-bird notices and buy things just because they are on sale or make impulse purchases for items that you don’t really need.

Free Samples

The free sample stations strategically placed in malls and grocery stores are not just a marketing strategy for a new product or eatable, but are also intended to make you linger around and buy other items placed in the area or aisles positioned next to these stations.

Mesh Bags Costlier

Did you think the vegetables packed in mesh bags were for your ease of picking and carrying?

Not always. They are costlier than loose items, and may also be a mix of good and damaged items.

So it may be more cost-effective to spend five more minutes and pick the vegetables by hand.

Small Packages Sell Big

If you think you are saving money by buying items that come in packs, say, a six-pack of juice cartons or probiotic packs, think again.

Research shows that you invariably end up consuming more over time, a smart way to make you spend more each time.

So unless you are entertaining or planning a trip, try not to go in for the ‘economical’ packs.

Discount Traps

‘Buy one, get second at ’50 per cent’ or ‘Buy one, get one free’ don’t make for good offers.

The first one is only providing a 25 per cent discount on each item. In the latter, the price may cover both items.

Online sales may also offer discounts with limited validity or on the next purchase.

Originally at http://m.economictimes.com/slideshows/investments-markets/beware-7-retailer-tricks-that-make-you-spend-more/discount-traps/slideshow/54386057.cms