CoolBrands released their “annual barometer of Britain’s coolest brands” earlier this year. They listed the 20 brands they deemed the pinnacle of cool. They believe that “cool is subjective and personal,” and therefore offer no definition.
We think it’s a bit more specific than that. We believe that a brand’s ‘cool’ is directly related to its cultural presence.
We don’t think that ‘cool’ is just about top of mind popularity – we think the brands that connect most powerfully to culture are the ones that emit that magical frisson of cool. They feel aspirational beyond their price by being switched on to how culture is changing, by finding a distinct and meaningful role to play in the world, and by creating vibrant brand experiences. They find a cultural role to play that disrupts conventions in the right way, and champions something that people really care about.
Our list of the coolest brands of 2015 is therefore a little different. For us, the top players were –
MAC have never been afraid to push boundaries. They stay culturally cool by remaining sharply switched on to how culture is changing. They consistently choose culturally diverse icons, who seem surprising at first, but so often tap into emergent cultural movements. From Rihanna to Maleficent to Miss Piggy, they celebrate beauty in all of its myriad and unexpected forms.
MAC never talks about perfection or enhancement, but instead gives people the freedom to play. This year they have pushed this viewpoint further, using a range of real people to showcase their products, encouraging everyone to be creative, confident and true to themselves.
Their ability to scour culture, and take inspiration from anywhere means that MAC constantly evolves and inspires. They are fiercely culturally vibrant.
Air BnB capture what passion for travel really means. They know that people really go on holiday for the real experience. By focusing on the new, unique and authentic experiences people can gain, they transformed the market, making other accommodation look dated or blandly extravagant.
They understood the cultural role they could play within the world of travel, and put their trust in a peer-to-peer community. It means that everything they offer is authentic. Users get inside tips, an unpretentious experience, and can #belonganywhere.
Their 2015 ‘Mankind’ campaign highlights further the human connections at the heart of the brand – the obsession with the real, the authentic and the enriching. Air BnB understand and consistently fulfil the cultural need for people to call anywhere in the world ‘home.’
No one on the high street is cooler than Lush. They know who they are, and they never pass up an opportunity to prove it. What Lush sells is always less important than what they believe in. This year, they have drawn people into their cool world even more by creating truly vibrant experiences. Their incredible new three-storey flagship on Oxford Street is powerfully immersive. The Gorilla perfume gallery creates a sensory world for each individual perfume – using music, visuals and, of course, scent.
And you don’t even need to be there in person, as they have also embraced social media as a creative storytelling tool. The Lush Kitchen Instagram account vividly showcases the creation of their handmade products, and heroes the people who make them.
Lush have created an experiential extravaganza, whilst always staying true to themselves. They make authenticity edgy and gutsy.
Tesla have never just sold cars. They have always taken on the mighty cultural mission to disrupt convention and turn the car category on its head. They have thought differently, and challenged the status quo at every step.
This manifests itself in the electric vehicles themselves – they are jam-packed with technology that other cars can only dream about, they enjoy constant software updates and they just keep getting better. This year they have released a collection of apps that allow drivers to seamlessly control the environment of their cars remotely, staying on the cusp of technological change.
It also shows in the way the brand behaves. They fulfil their mission to create “compelling mass market electric cars” by generating a sense of covetable cool. The unveiling of their new models feels more like a rock concert than a product launch, and they have moved the car showroom from bland out-of-town lots to the heart of the most popular shopping malls.
Tesla passionately believe that they have a meaningful role to play in the world, and they are constantly on a mission to sign up followers. They truly believe they can change the world.
THE NATIONAL TRUST
The National Trust’s 2015 advertising campaign features a reading by the punk poet John Cooper Clarke. This could feel at odds with a brand associated with safe, middle England. But The National Trust has changed. By shifting its focus from the properties it owns to the grounds they’re set in, it has captured a sharply relevant kind of cultural cool.
In a hectic and increasingly digital world, it is increasingly cool to seek the real, the authentic, the lo-fi. It is now cool to enjoy simple pleasures and appreciate the brilliance of the natural world. It is cool to embrace the wild spirit of adventure. The coolest kids these days are not the ones glued to their iPads, but the ones up to their elbows in a rock pool.
The National Trust recognised this shifts, and they have owned them – with their 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ campaign, and Keep on the Grass signs – with a distinct, charming British wit.