The Anatomy of Cool

The headline implies that there is a ‘body’ whose anatomy you can analyze. The whole point of cool is that it does not have a body available for analysis. It’s like a ghost instead of a corpse. That’s why it is cool.
Just like all comments on cool, our analysis is completely individual and ever-changing. Cool is whatever you like and want. Cool is subjective. It is an opinion. But that does not mean that we — as individuals, brands, media — are not interested in or influenced by others’ views of what cool is.

In this sense cool is a bit like fashion. You decide and choose for yourself what you feel is fashionable within your peer group, your culture, your age group, at your financial level. But someone somewhere has given you the initial clue. Marketers and media have brought out the type of sneaker, the kind of jeans, the brand of handbag that you now like and want. In addition, someone you admire is most likely also wearing it. You follow fashion.

But cool is also definitely NOT like fashion. Cool is more about what the norm is NOT. Cool is elusive, indefinable, covetable. It is original, desirable, and not accessible to everybody. If everyone has it, if the brand becomes saturated, it stops being cool.

Occasionally, a brand manages to remain cool and covetable, and becomes a classic. Of the world-wide brands, examples of this include Apple, Absolut and Mini. Many niche brands have also achieved classic status in their relatively small circle. The defining characteristic of these cool classics is that they keep innovating constantly.

Visual & instant
Cool is visual and instant. When you see it, you like it instantly. If it takes a lot of work to figure out, it is not cool. This does not mean that only simple or simplified things or ideas can be cool. What it does mean is that you need to be able to see it.

This is one reason why cool and coolhunting and trend forecasting became so important to marketers as soon as the internet gave everyone instant access to images. Magazines, TV or advertisers could no longer control what cool looked like. Marketers who were used to being the ones who decided what the next trend or the next fashion was going to be, suddenly had to face this uncontrollable deluge of messages, opinions and information that consumers were passing on to each other. Viral marketing, as opposed to just word-of-mouth, emerged, and it scared traditional marketers.

Today’s consumers are sick of mass marketing and the sameness of brands. They want to be delighted, surprised and wowed by something that is authentic, different and off the mainstream. One of the reasons has become so popular and influential is that we do not sell, market or create cool. We just give it an audience.

We process an enormous amount of information and identify what’s hot, exceptional, interesting, covetable. It must have an instantly obvious x-factor. Detecting it is always intuitive. There’s no formula, no rules, no parameters. We do find patterns, parallels and trends, but we do not become stuck in them and start looking for similar things. The intuitive reaction, the ability to observe the world, and the skill to process massive quantities of unrelated information is what we are good at.

All major media outlets follow us at and fill their pages with ideas we feature. When we post a piece about an idea or a brand or a product, it gets an immediate global reaction from traditional media. Brands come to us for ideas and consultation. Individuals enjoy the fact that we prowl the world and bring original ideas to them. And as soon as we gained an audience, marketers, PR people and brands started to send us their material. So it’s an endless cycle.

For me, coolhunting is a fascinating, ever-changing process that no-one can control. You start with a blank space every day and look for something that deserves to fill it. If you don’t find it, you leave it blank. We are not like a newspaper or a daily blog that must find something to fill the space. We only put it out there if it has that elusive, indefinable wow-factor.

Indefinable & in motion
We are not in the business of defining cool, although I am asked to do that every day. Cool cannot have a definition.

But we do run into brands who seem to live under the illusion that if someone just defined for them what cool is, then they would be able to become cool, too. Then they’d know how to create it, market it, promote it, make money from it.

To a limited, impermanent extent, this is, of course, possible. We are regularly asked to come up with cool ideas, cool events, cool promotions — and we do that — but at the core there must already be a cool product, idea, cause, concept. You cannot make something cool by promo. And, if by the sheer brilliance of a cool promotion, you do succeed in creating a publicity or even sales boost for a brand, that does not make the brand cool. Coolness needs to be earned again and again.

To me, the essence of cool is motion. To become and remain cool, a brand must keep innovating constantly. It must remain in constant motion. This same is true for those of us who hunt for it.

While I don’t worry about defining cool for anyone else, I am always fascinated by how the people who follow us define it for themselves. We’ve posed that question recently on our Facebook & Twitter, and received hundreds of responses. They are such a perfect example of the fact that NOBODY can define it and EVERYBODY can. Here’s a sampling of the responses we’ve received. It shows that the definition of cool is always individual. – Bill Tikos

Cool is:

something sleek, simple and bold, that feels effortless.

to be the first, the original that starts a trend and is iconic.

forward-thinking, breaks boundaries, confident. Cool is the idea you wish you thought of first.

the audacity to be different for reasons that don’t need to be articulated & unconsciously achieving it.

cool is what stands up – what makes you take a notice and appreciate something beyond the norm. When you see a product or a design or creation and your mind just screams at the want of it – or the appreciation to understand it more fully – that is cool.
cool is what makes you think twice.
Cool is somthing that pops up in our minds when we see something positivly extraordiany!
Cool makes you nod in agreement with all your senses, makes you grin and perhaps the goosebumbs follow. Cool penetrates beyond fake reactions, cool blows the dryness of your face, cool opens your eyes to walk away from it knowing that there is more than generic and monotonous garbage.

effortless style, a hint of madness and heaps of attitude

a mindset —being informed, relaxed, and expressing it effortlessly.

the word ‘cool’ is just confidence in aesthetic form.

wonderful, clever and beautiful. From oh wow, ahhh, I get it! to it would make me look *good*

Cool is a person not being affected by other peoples opinons, or behaviour -staying cool in a critical situation. A cool person stick to what he/she thinks is right no matter what. A person who works hard to appear cool is the oposite. What is “Cool stuff”, like on the Cool Hunter page, is defined by if it stands out, doing it’s own thing.

the art of not needing to try to be it, of possessing enough confidence in your own ideas and style to turn heads.

the new ideal; it is moving confidently forward into a better future, assured that things to come will be better.

a person/place/thing pleasurable to observe as it appears to fulfill its nature effortlessly and with signature style

the time you spend to define what cool is, cool is already gone somewhere else. Welcome in the tiring cycle of coolness. 🙂

We see ‘cool’ in things/ideas/people that have an innate and untouchable authenticity about them. Things that redefine genres. Spawn global fads and inflame our insatiable appetite for originality and roads even more less travelled than the ones before.

Remaining unaffected and composed in a world which is filled with trouble and uncertainty. Living with a constant Miles Davis soundtrack in the background, acting accordingly.

Cool is all that is authentic and artistic and innovative…cool is confidence without the arrogance… cool is connected to spirits that seek instead of stagnate…cool is impossible to define because it’s in a constant state of evolution.

Cool its everything that makes you think ‘WOW…’

Cool has nothing to do with the external. There is no object, gadget, fashion, or built environment which is cool by and of itself. The term is only manifest when the external thing becomes utilised and inspired by a person. Cool is merely confidence of character which is then made cool by the appreciation of an audience.
Anything within reason can be made cool by somebody with the power and subtlety to make it individual and authentic – except a Toyota Prius maybe.

Cool is something so attractive and inspiring that people want to appropriate for themselves and for their creations. It’s a subjective concept.
COOL is worth attention – remarkable, something to remember, outstanding, eye-catcher!
cool is about being desirable! it can be new, old, something u found a new use. it’s not cool if its not a desire!

Cool is not about trends or fashion, it’s about being timeless and effortless.

Something that makes you feel like telling someone else about it.

Cool is only a momentary flash of brilliance …Before it transforms to conventional.

When pessimistic people say something is cool, I pay attention and usually agree. It takes a lot to impress pessimism

Anything that is described by the advertising media as cool, isn’t.
Cool is an Outlier. Something that sits on the edge of normal thinking. Thinking outside of the square
Cool is the emotion we feel at contemplating the few brave, who express their originality, being loyal to their true selves and exposing it by doing so. We would all like to dear to be cool, is an expectative, but not to be copied, but to be selfexpresed (there is not a cool thing, and a not cool: it depends on who/how they are generated)
Cool is cool, defining it any further may just defeat the purpose…
Read more comments and leave your interpretation over at our facebook page.


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