What effect does the 'cool factor' really have?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 11, 2003

There is a growing trend of 'cool consumerism' in Europe, with consumers increasingly buying products that reflect their aspiration to lead a 'cool' lifestyle, according to a new survey by independent market analyst, Datamonitor. These aspirations, it seems, are equally reflected among older consumers who are reluctant to appear middle aged, while young consumers simply want to be seen as being 'cool'.

Datamonitor's new report, Coolness in Consumer Packaged Goods, highlights the trend of 'cool consumerism', and concludes that a product or brand's Coolness Factor can strongly influence the consumer's opinion and serve as a key differentiator.

In the past thirty years the quality of 'coolness' has become strongly associated with consumerism as people increasingly make use of brand labels to define themselves socially. Some 66% of the survey's respondents felt it was important or very important to feel personally cool in the way they live their lifestyle, and a similar number also placed an equally high emphasis on being seen as cool in the eyes of others.

Insecure consumers
With human nature leaving most people feeling naturally insecure, brands and products that are seen by many as being cool can provide an important sense of security to ordinary consumers.

Although this phenomenon is arguably most associated with clothing and fashion goods, Datamonitor's survey showed that consumers are now beginning to look for coolness in smaller commodity items associated with consumer packaged goods (CPGs).

Paying more for Cool
The need to appear to be cool, and a willingness to pay more for a product that is seen as being cool, leads consumers to demand more from their brands. This, in turn, places more pressure on manufacturers and marketers to provide the right image as well as high quality products.

The idea of 'Cool' carries a number of implications for marketers: Companies including Nike and Adidas have already shown that establishing a cool image can be highly profitable.

Age sensitivity
According to Datamonitor, although people's priorities change with age, the desire to be seen consuming the right products remains a relatively timeless need. The lifestyle benefits of cool CPGs can be as relevant to those over 40 as the under 25s.

Many older consumers try to avoid appearing middle-aged by seeking products that present a more youthful lifestyle. For example, many parents have taken to wearing the same kind of trainers as their children, and even playing the same video games.

What is cool?
Datamonitor has identified three key consumer groups sharing common values and characteristics, all seeking coolness in different ways:

  1. Opinion Formers, of whom there were 21.8 million in Europe in 2002, are the key influencers in setting trends on what is cool.
  2. Adopters play a key connecting role in the diffusion of cool and 'hip' products to the mainstream of consumers.
  3. Regulars are the mainstream consumers who simply follow the trends once established. Any new and cool products will filter first through the opinion formers, then through the adopters, finally ending up in the mainstream regular group.

"These consumer groups, identifiable through specific personal characteristics and shared attitudes and values are likely to share common interpretations of what is cool," explained Datamonitor analyst, Daniel Bone. "Marketers must be able to vary their tactics for targeting these consumer groups in order to make products appear desirable to their lifestyles and personalities. They must also resist letting cool products diffuse to the mainstream too quickly."

Caveat vendor
However, Datamonitor cautions marketers not to misinterpret the increasing importance of cool, warning they must avoid becoming too 'cool-centric'. Because it is not a necessity that CPG (consumer packaged goods) products be cool in the first place, consumers are ultimately demanding a good quality and useful product, not just a cool product.

"Coolness is important but it is far from being the main benefit consumers seek. What remains of more importance is to market your product as lifestyle-supporting, meaning it will sometimes be cool, but at other times not," added Bone.

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