Be Un-cool: 7 Ways Cool Can Lead You Astray

Every year around the Cannes Lions, the ad industry puts a spotlight on creativity, and buzz heats up around who and what is “cool.” It’s one of the highest achievements in advertising and marketing — to do something that’s cool. That people on the team are super-proud of. That make people in the industry say, “wow,” and “I wish I’d done that.” And, most importantly, that engages consumers in a gigantic and novel way. That is totally cool. And, generally, it should be everyone’s ambition.

But I’m here to tell you, cool can be dangerous. While everyone may be seduced by cool, shooting for it is never a good thing, as cool will lead you astray. Here’s why:

Cool forgets
What was our objective again? What are we trying to achieve? Who is our main target? These and other strategic pillars can be completely forgotten when people get seduced by cool. Teams can do things that are 180° off-base, because they can’t seem to help themselves. Or worse, they decide that cool is more important.



Cool blinds
When you choose to pursue doing something that’s cool, you may not notice aspects of the effort that are odd, off, errant. Or you’ll disregard the fact that a partner you’ve chosen to help execute it is inappropriate, or the costs are way out of whack with the value. Or you’ll miss the fact that key aspects of the execution are not fully thought through or are sub-standard. Because, in the bright light of cool, many of the finer aspects may be hard to see.

Cool is self-involved
Cool pursues its own agenda. The folks who push for something because it’s cool do it for their portfolio, their personal CV and career, their pride or their friends. But the brand, the consumer and the results, the real focuses, are not part of that equation.

Cool has its own GPS
If you decide to follow the cool, and you may find you end up in completely different territory than you began or intended. One thing can lead to another, and you may end up addressing a completely different problem than you set out to address.

Cool is reckless
Once you choose to go cool, there’s no turning back. You say “damn the torpedoes.” Even if the gales of reality blow against you, you refuse to give in to them. You spend wildly, you spin resources, you take your eyes off the ball. Cool has you missing deadlines, ignoring realities, de-prioritizing actual priorities.

Cool is fickle
What is cool today will assuredly not be cool tomorrow. So aiming for cool is essentially doing the opposite of the great Wayne Gretzky advice — that is, cool aims for where the puck has been vs. where it’s going. Good luck with that.

Cool is in the eye of the beholder
Cool is subjective — one man’s cool is another man’s banal. And while a marketer/agency’s view of what’s cool will shape the advertising, it’s worthless if the prospects and audience don’t see cool the exact same way.

Don’t get me wrong — achieving cool is awesome. And doing something that is smart, effective, successful and cool is the ultimate win. However, never set out for cool, use it as your compass, or do something because it’s cool. Instead, hope like hell your successful efforts are viewed as cool by your target, your colleagues and your peers.

Sound cool to you?

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