Coolness is a quality that is widely desired but not widely understood. While many brands seek to establish themselves as "cool," few have a clear idea of how to get there. In this technical note, we present a general framework for coolness that can be used by consumers and managers alike to better understand how to create an air of cool around themselves, their brand, or their products.
Our framework rests on four traits: autonomy, authenticity, attitude, and association, and on the interplay between them. Using this framework, we answer questions such as, "What makes something cool?," "What do cool brands do differently?," and "How can something cool become uncool?" Drawing on the literature surrounding autonomy, identity, norms, and impression formation, as well as real-world examples of best practices and common pitfalls, the note seeks to help students navigate the ambiguous world of coolness.
This note is appropriate for use both in a first-year marketing course as well as a higher-level elective with MBAs and executives. It would be most impactful if taught along with the case "A Supreme Case of Coolness" (UVA-M-1006); the framework in this note could be applied to expand the discussion in that case.