The word "cool" is something which brands can sometimes have an uncomfortable relationship with – it's viewed as an aspirational value, but there's the knowledge that coolness, as tricky as it is to define, can leave you wondering what happens if it fades. In business, tangible returns such as the financial rewards of a successfully-implemented strategy sit more comfortably with many executives.
There are, however, rewards in being yoked to the term – coolness provides access to an aspirational market, and a market young enough, to turn into lifetime clients. Protea Hotels by Marriott has been voted "Coolest Hotel Group in South Africa" consistently for years, reflecting an ongoing approach to business operations. Take a look at your consumers; chances are, unless your product or service is specifically geared towards an older generation, that the forever-young generation is both your current and future market base. This generation comprising forward-thinking, progressive individualists is the one tasked with honouring brands with the title of "cool".
Age, unless you're Keith Richards, is not particularly cool – think of how kids can react when their dads make silly jokes or their moms kiss them at the school gate. Think of the fashions you thought were cool ten or fifteen years ago; you may not want to haul out the bell-bottomed jeans again any time soon. Delving deeper into the value of being viewed as cool for business purposes, you're also likely to want to recruit younger team members whose creativity and energy will be great resources for your company. When attracting forever-young employees, it helps immensely to be viewed as cool.
Where once tech and computers were seen as the opposite of cool, brands such as Google and Facebook have turned this assumption on its head, making their working environments desirable. That's not by mistake, either, both brands have made it clear that their team members are valued and that they also represent their audiences. Any brand operating in an environment where "cool" is desirable is put in the position of constant reinvention, having to add value to stay relevant. That's the place of all companies, essentially, but there's more of a burden on you when you want to be the best in a competitive world.
As a hotel, for example, you can't simply offer free Wi-Fi and hope that will do the trick; the basic expectations must be met and exceeded, and every aspect of the business must be examined and put into alignment with the business strategy. Your marketing can be off-the-charts cool, but what about your contact centre? Is it operating with outmoded hardware and software that immediately makes your customers feel like they're time travelling? When the technology exists to place you at the cutting edge, there's no excuse. The disconnect must go, replaced by a thread of coolness that is woven throughout every department, one that your team members have been informed about and provided with the means to engage with.
In advertising, they say you're only as good as your last campaign, so this attention to detail must be ongoing, as every element that contributes to the success of your business has to excel operationally, whether visible to your customers or not. The external elements, the ones your customers engage with, need to appeal to them, to speak to their preferences and to offer personalisation that differentiates your brand from others. Personalised attention is cool to receive, no matter what age your target market is. Perceptions are difficult to change, but not impossible, and the value gained is in elevated Customer Experiences.
Those experiences, in turn, lead to a great reputation and customer loyalty, that, in return, speaks to ongoing financial success, the kind executives appreciate. Don't confuse "cool" with "fad". The age of viral videos has shown us that it's possible for almost anyone to have fifteen minutes of fame, but building enduring strategies takes consistent effort that produces results. Fads come and go, providing momentary glory, while being cool can be a sustainable part of a successful business strategy.