This morning I went to get an oat latte from Pret and complimented the woman in front of me. She was wearing a pair of ON running shoes.
She smiled and said that her kids say it’s for people who run, but I bought them to look cool.
It made me think about what it means to be cool, and how we all want to be perceived as cool.
There are many theories on why people want to be thought of as cool. One of those theories is that it’s a ‘toxic’ trait because the ego wants to be different and to get everyone’s assurance, security and respect. People think that by projecting themselves as ‘cool’ they will get all this.
It all depends on where that desire is coming from. On a deeper level, I think we all subconsciously want to be seen as cool in the things we care about. And we all care about different things and we all have different values.
I think that we can think of the word cool as modern as well. So the lady that said she wants to look cool; I think she wants to be modern. She wants to show the world that she is a modern woman that lives in the 21st century.
If someone is wearing a pair of Reeboks, for example, it’s perceived as old fashioned and outdated because Reebok is not a cool brand, it’s a brand that had its glory in the 80s and somehow stayed there.
All brands have created a perception. If you go to Waitrose you are a specific type of person. If you wear a Rolex you are a specific type of person. Companies know what they are trying to achieve and they work hard to create that perception.
We all perceive things in a different way. Actually, a better way to say this is that we all VALUE different things. Somebody will spend more money on fashion or a certain type of brand. Some people value some things less and they don’t care about the price and how they are perceived.
A great example is when you see a person using Microsoft you know (subconsciously know) that that person is not creative, they don’t have great aesthetics and don’t understand great design. Their taste for design is not that great.
I’m sorry, but it’s very rare to meet a great designer using Microsoft. In the creative industry we all know that Apple is for people ‘like us’ — it’s for creatives. It’s for people who think differently.
You sit on a train and you see two people: one using Microsoft and one using Apple. You know that the person using Apple is the creative person and the person who uses Microsoft is most probably good with Excel and numbers.
The world needs them both, the point is not that one person is better or worse. The person looks cool in their own community.
The reason we want to be seen cool is because we want to be accepted by our community. Being cool has a psychological deeper definition, it literally means to think and act in the same direction of your same age or generation so they accept you among them. It’s just human nature craving attention and acceptance. It goes hand in hand with being social with other people, spending time and learning from them which goes into a cycle.
We need to consider that each generation is different and age group matters as we are affected by local and global culture.
Facebook was considered cool 10 years ago, but it’s not anymore because “FB is a platform for my mum’ as some kids say, and they move away. Where do cool kids hang out now? TikTok, because the platform is new and it’s cool. Guess what happened in the past 12 months? The demographic 30–50 grew dramatically on TikTok because older people want to be perceived as cool as well.
My girlfriend used to use a Microsoft machine. She wasn’t cool with that machine. I told her and sold her on the Apple MacBook Air. She never owned an Apple.
Now she does and she loves it, she is part of the community, the unspoken community of creatives.
I used to love my Sony Vaio 12 years ago, I used to say that Apple is for nerds, it’s not for me. My taste in design was horrendous, I have proof on my Facebook account.
I remember one of my exes was a graphic designer, she used to be a huge fan of Apple. I didn’t quite get it as I didn’t see the same thing as she did. The truth is I couldn’t afford a MacBook back then so I created an excuse.
In November 2011 I bought my first Macbook, and I’ve never looked back ever since. I bought my best friend a MacBook Air a month later as a gift as I was so excited. I bought other machines for the office and I influenced others to convert.
We all want to be perceived as cool in the things we care about. There is nothing wrong with it as long as it comes from a healthy place.
When we want to market to people that care about the thing we are selling we need to make sure that our brand is perceived as cool. We want to make sure that everything about our brand is carefully thought through.
In the past 5 years I have always bought Nike shoes for all my running (trail and road). Two weeks ago was the first time I bought a pair of running shoes that weren’t Nike. I bought a pair of ON running shoes. I justified the purchase with different things, like I have an ultra 110 km race in two weeks, my current trail shoes have 550 km on them so I need a new pair.. I need to try different brands to suggest to athletes that I coach. And so on…
But on a deeper level I think I want to be perceived as a cool ultra runner.
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