The Pursuit of Cool

In Eritrea, 15% of all people have access to any sort of bathroom. That number changes to 5% in the rural areas. For the sake of dignity and the needs of sanitation, this is a big problem.

It seems like a lot modern marketing advice and/or case studies focus on what is and isn’t “cool.” Coolness can be powerful, but is, as The Simpsons points out, often out-of-reach:

Homer: So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.
Bart: Dad, what you just said was powerfully uncool.
Homer: You know what the song says: “It’s hip to be square”.
Lisa: That song is so lame.
Homer: So lame that it’s… cool?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool, not caring, right?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how […] do you be cool?! I feel like we’ve tried everything here!
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?

Of course, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, this coolness is often inauthentic and based on the clouded fancies of our peers. It may create success in the short-term and may be appropriate for faddish brands, but pursuing it is likely an ill-conceived and wasteful effort for a sizable number of organizations.

For example, creating a wonderful marketing strategy that can help solve Eritrea’s sanitation problem is not an approach that millions of teens will think is cool. Although such a solution will not make the L Report, it could change the world for millions of people. That’s cool.


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