Apple is now Britain’s “coolest” brand a marketing company has claimed after a conducting a subjective poll of 39 “opinion formers” backed up to a modest degree by the views of 3,000 ordinary consumers.
The 2012/13 CoolBrands survey gave second spot to YouTube, followed (in order) by car maker Aston Martin, Twitter, Google itself, BBC’s iPlayer, the Glastonbury music festival, airline Virgin Atlantic, expensive hi-fi maker Bang & Olufsen, and department store Liberty.
The next ten places on the list were a cross-section of mostly high-end brands including, Sony, Bose, Häagen-Dazs, Selfridges, Ben & Jerry’s Mercedes and Vogue, which raises the immediate concern that what has been singled out are less ‘coolness’ so much as ‘expensive and select’.
More widely there was an obvious bias towards brands that spend a lot on advertising or are simply well known. Remarkably few tech brands made in on to the upper slopes of the list, although Skype, Nikon and even Angry Birds figured.
According to CoolBrands’ methodology, voting gives an 80 percent weighting towards the “experts”, with the remaining 20 percent decided by the wider poll.
The danger with such surveys is that what is meant by “cool” goes unexamined, especially when the most important input is from a small group that can’t possibly represent wider opinion.
The expert panel that decided matters was heavy on journalists, self-appointed style gurus and the sort of people Malcolm Gladwell once famously called “hyper-social.” Such overwhelmingly twenty-somethings can influence opinion but is what they are measuring a meaningful category beyond the simplicities of marketing buzz?
“Cool is subjective and personal. Accordingly, neither set of voters were given a definition but were asked to bear in mind the following factors, which research has shown are inherent in a CoolBrand: style, innovation, originality, authenticity, desirability, uniqueness,” the marketing firm behind CoolBrands explained.
If what is being measured is ultimately popularity among a handful of young opinion-formers then a wider survey might have uncovered a degree of ambiguity, but that wouldn’t, or course, be cool.
"It is interesting that in this age of austerity our perception of cool has increasingly shifted from aspirational, luxury brands to free or more affordable brands that provide us with pleasure," said Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the CoolBrands expert council," said Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the CoolBrands expert council to the BBC.
Some expensive and exclusive brands had fallen out of the list since last year, he said.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this survey were the brands that not on it. No Coca Cola or Pepsi and certainly no major banks bar outsiders The Co-operative Bank, Virgin Money and First Direct.