Be Un-Cool – why you should never aim for cool

Everyone is seduced by cool. I know I can be. Cool gets attention, gets buzz, wins awards, and even can make careers. And, after over 50 years in use, the word ‘cool’ still remains the best way to describe when something is, well, cool. I find myself using it regularly, to describe work, ideas, people, things – there’s no other way to explain things.

And it’s one of the highest achievements in work (at least my line of work) – to do something that’s cool. That people on your 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’s totally cool. And, in a large part, should be everyone’s ambition.

But I’m here to tell you, cool is dangerous. Shooting for cool is never a good thing, because it will lead you astray. Cool should never be your goal – although it should be an outcome of your efforts.  Here’s why:

Cool forgets
What was our objective again? What are we trying to achieve? Who is our main target? These simple facts can be completely forgotten when people get seduced by cool. Teams can do things that are 180° off-base, just because they can’t seem to help themselves.

Cool blinds
When you choose to pursue doing something that’s “cool”, you may not notice aspects of it that are odd, off, errant. Or you’ll miss the fact that the partner is untrustworthy. Or the costs are way out of whack with the value. Or you’ll not see that key aspects of its execution are not-thought-through or sub-standard. Because, in the bright light of cool, all other 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 CV, their pride or their friends. But the brand, the consumer and the results are not part of the equation.

Cool has it’s own GPS
If you decide to follow the cool, and you may find you end up in completely different territory than you intended. One thing leads to another, and you’rr addressing a completely different problem than you set out to address.

Cool is wreckless
Once you choose to go cool, there’s no turning back. You say “damn the torpedoes”.  The gales of reality blow against you, but 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 facts, de-prioritizing actual priorities.

Don’t get me wrong – cool is awesome. And doing something that is smart, effective, successful AND cool is the ultimate win. However, never do something because it’s cool. But hope like hell you did something well that was cool.

What are your thoughts on cool?


  1. Cool works as a marketing ploy: Just one of several tools a clever marketer utilizes these days to break through all the clutter. I enjoyed reading your post. Good to learn there is someone else out there that has thought about this topic.

  2. Cool is also very, very subjective. What may be cool to you, could alienate your target market. Cool is also very fickle. What is cool today, will certainly not be cool tomorrow. Timing is everything.

    Very original post Michael. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  3. Nice column, Michael. One point I’d add is that “shooting for cool” is a waste of time, imo. Cool, or however you want to refer it, happens. It’s not an end in itself and I don’t think it’s something that can really be planned (nor should it be). Do the right thinking, do the right work, make the right efforts, revise and repeat in a different way, if necessary. Let others judge whether it’s cool or not.

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