Lessons on how you can grow a brand, even if you’re not cool.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

Coachella is an annual 3 day music and arts festival.  It sounds pretty cool:  features a wide range of genres of music, including rock, indie, hip hop and electronic music.  It’s in the desert.  There are sculptures.  But then again, if yours truly thinks it sounds cool, then it probably no longer is.  Or at minimum its days of cool are numbered.  And the arrival of mainstream celebrities, with an air of desperate hope that a little “cool” will rub off on them, isn’t helping.  Check out these pictures.

Scraggly hair extensions – check

Peace sign – check

Floppy hat – check

Few days of facial growth – check

Designer clothes with a Salvation Army vibe – check

Before they showed up in droves Coachella was cool.  But now that it’s a perceived source of cool…it’s no longer cool.   When everyone starts to think you’re cool, particularly that horrible group called the mainstream, then you are no longer cool.  You with me?

There is no universal definition of cool.  But here’s what we think makes something cool:

  • Someone or something that stays true to his or herself
  • An individualist, doesn’t follow others, doesn’t have to try to be like others to be accepted
  • Has a deep set of beliefs and always stands up for what they believe in
  • Doesn’t ignorantly follow trends.  Cool is a state of being.


Funny, none of the celebs in the pictures fit these criteria.  So what brands are cool, by definition?  Lululemon, Starbucks, Apple, Audi, Bose, Harley Davidson.

How did they get there?  Well, these brands start with an unquestionably amazing product.  They are also very recognizable; the iconography is consistent across every single part of the brand.  They don’t try to be all things to all people – the brand is designed to the ideal target.  As a result they have a cult following.  There is an air of exclusivity, but appear to be reachable by everyone.  And, they sell an experience.  People aren’t buying the product; they are buying the experience the product offers.

Who failed miserably at all this?  Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, MySpace, BodyGlove (remember that once-cool 80s brand?  Now available at your local WalMart.  Sigh).

So what about your brand?   Think it’s inherently cool?  You’re probably wrong.  Are you trying to be a little cooler?  Give it up.  At the end of the day, it’s perfectly fine to not be cool.  Learn from cool brands, but just be yourself and do what it is you do.  Growth will come.  And that’s cool too.