5 Steps to Cool Social Branding

5 Steps to Cool Social Branding

Now I’m not referring to the same thing Ron Slater is referring to in the movie Dazed and Confused.

What I’m referring to is the indefinable quality of character called cool.

I’m going to make two bold statements and then show that they’re true:

1) To maximize the effect of social media marketing, you must be “cool”… at least to some part of your market.

2) Regardless of the niche any brand can genuinely earn the reputation of being “cool.”

Before I begin, we have to define what we’re talking about when we say, “cool.”

I remember when I was a teenager complaining to a particularly smart aunt of mine, that I wasn’t “cool.”

She responded, that the word cool was stupid and didn’t mean anything. To this day, in my heart of hearts, I think she was right.

But how could this be when I’ve decided to write an entire post about it and make the claim that being cool is fundamental to successful social media campaigns? (And if you’re friends with me on Social Media, why my most common comment is “Cool!”?)

It all depends on the definition you use.

When Slater asks Mitch, “Are you cool, man?” Specifically, he is trying to find out whether or not Mitch smokes pot, but he phrases it in a very commonly understood teenage question, “Are you cool?”

This question is really asking will you salute and adopt our customs, traditions, beliefs, and appearance in order to be initiated as a member of the group?

Cool, in this context – as a judgment of appropriate inclusion, is pretty stupid and adolescent because it allows the user to pass judgment without naming the criteria on which the judgment is based – very convenient.

Stupid or not, it is powerful for the person who uses it, because it carries the power include or exclude. Moreover it is always undefined (I know it when I see it).

Now this matter of inclusion and exclusion is also involved in the managing of social media communities, but I’ll talk about that in a future post.

What is Cool?

The cool I am referring to is the characteristic we identify in fictional heroes.

James Bond, John Wayne, The Marlboro Man, Bruce Lee, Superman, Batman, Rocky, Conor McGregor, Muhammad Ali, Paul Walker, La Femme Nikita, Thelma & Louise, The Fonz, The Most Interesting Man in the World, etc.

These are all examples of characters who are/were considered cool by someone, or a caricature of cool, in the case of The Fonz or The Most Insteresting Man in the World.

The award winning ad man and author of The Advertising Effect, Adam Ferrier produced a graduate level thesis on the definition of cool and here are the common qualities he discovered:

  • They have self-belief and confidence – self awareness and more importantly self-acceptance are seen as cool.
  • They defy convention – having the conviction to follow their own path.
  • They are successful achievers, but understated – they don’t have to tell you that they’re good.
  • They care for others, humanistic – … listening to others … broadminded … non-judgmental … they are have a caring respect for others.
  • High connectivity, great with people – … magnetism … a strong personality that attracts others.

So finally we have a set of criteria for cool! Thank you Mr. Ferrier!

Using these let’s revisit my assertions.

1) To maximize the effect of social media marketing, you must be “cool”… at least to some part of the market.

Let’s use proof by reductio ad absurdum, which is a form of proof in math and logic where you assume the exact opposite and look for an impossible consequence.

So let’s imagine the social media presence of a fictional entity, the ACME Corporation.

The social media presence of the ACME Corporation has none… zilch… nada… of the qualities of “cool” mentioned above.

This means they…

  • They have NO self-belief and NO confidence – They are constantly communicating uncertainty and insecurity.
  • They are completely conventional – They are as plain jane as they come. If it hasn’t been done before, they don’t do it. Their ideal response from audience members is, “Of course I’ve seen it before, but it doesn’t offend me.”
  • They have little genuine evidence of success, but they embellish and boast about what little they’ve done – they DO have to tell you that they’re good, because no one else will.
  • They do not care for others, their engagement is robotic and mechanistic – … They don’t really listen to others… smallminded… judgmental … they display blatant disrespect for others.
  • They don’t connect – people feel repelled … they have a weak personality that turns people off.

Now after reading this description (and I’m sure you recognize a few accounts like this… ha ha), does the ACME Corporation have any chance growing their business on social media?

Clearly no…


2) Regardless of the niche any brand can be cool.

Consciously cultivate these 5 qualities in your social media presence:

  1. Self-belief and confidence – have self awareness and be self-accepting.
  2. Defy convention – be a trailblazer!
  3. Don’t hide success, but don’t boast – let your customers communicate that you’re good. (Casey Neistat does this well)
  4. Care for others and be human – listening to your audience… be broadminded … non-judgmental … have a caring respect for others.
  5. High connectivity, be great with people – accept your magnetism… display your true self, a strong personality that attracts others. The key to this is being vulnerable – see this TED Talk.

Any brand, personal or corporate, can cultivate these qualities.

Here are some niches where I’ve engineered cool…

  • Tire Stores
  • Auto Repair Shops
  • Medical Skin Care
  • Window Washers
  • Janitorial Firms
  • Spiritual Self-help Authors
  • Business Consultants

Trust me, most of these were challenging, but if I can do with these, it can be done anywhere!

Don’t let anyone tell you Paper Crafts can’t be cool… I have a proof for that!

Go out and be the James Bond of your corner of the interwebs.

There you have it…

Engineering Cool for Social Media Fun and Profit in 5 Easy Steps!

If you enjoyed this post or otherwise found it useful, I’d be much obliged if you’d share it with your audiences on social media. Look at all those cool buttons below… 🙂

Authenticity: The Challenge of Personal Branding

Authenticity: The Challenge of Personal Branding

Content Challenges

It takes work to produce any kind of content… period. It takes a lot of work to create good content.

This is why there is such a profitable divide between content producers and content consumers.

Keeping content looking and sounding consistent requires effort.

Producing it at regular intervals requires discipline.

If you’re managing your own personal brand, it’s somewhat easier because you get to pick the stuff you like, but when you’re managing a brand for someone else, it’s not so easy.

You have to use your imagination and take on the role of an author. You have to ask, what would my client’s brand like/choose in this situation?

Authenticity Challenges

Despite the challenges involved in creating branded content, the biggest issue I see is authenticity.

Social media audiences are as sensitive to authenticity as bloodhounds are to blood. If they don’t smell it, they’re off the scent and will stop following.

So the job is really simple.

Just tell a perfectly authentic, never-ending story.

Easy, right?


For a personal brand this should be easy… in theory.

Just Do You!… Be Real!… whatever cliche you want to use for “be yourself.”

The people who like your rap, STAY.

And the people who don’t, LEAVE – the perfect recipe for market segmentation.

The thing is, a personal brand is still a manufactured contrivance.

It’s specifically designed to look like it’s not artificial… sort of like a Bonsai Tree or a Zen garden.

It has to be maintained and manicured. How much info do we leave in? How much do we take away?

In real life I suspect most people’s authentic selves are “complex” and full of contradictory impulses.

These can cause cognitive dissonance for an audience following the “story-line” of a personal brand’s output on social media, where it’s rapid fire message after message.

Close friends and family understand our contradictory qualities (or at least forgive them) in the context of a larger story… our life-story. They have had the chance to learn our story over a long period of time… years usually.

Whereas a social media audience is catching the story somewhere in the middle and giving it only the briefest attention. I think this is why traditional branding works.

It immediately allows people to connect the next piece of content with the last piece.

This is often accomplished by maintaining colors, fonts, logos, themes, etc.

But it can also be accomplished by divulging personal details – telling a story.

For example “I had a flat tire on the way to taking the kids to school today. I had to call AAA and wait 45 minutes to get a tow. It caused me to miss an important meeting with a potential client. Damn am I pissed!”

In these (completely fictional) details there are all sorts of hooks for people’s attention/memory to latch onto.

A reader could think, he has kids, so do I. I know how that feels. And on and on with every detail.

That’s why personal storytelling so powerful when you’re building a personal brand.

Colin Theriot, founder of the Cult of Copy has an excellent video on “exformation“, which is directly related to this issue of being an authentic personal brand. Definitely worth the watch.

For me, I struggle to decide how much personal info to include in my personal “business” brand.

Arguably, I could be including more of my personal story in my brand. I’m seriously considering this option, but it doesn’t come naturally to me in any way.

I’m watching several folks who do this extraordinarily well including the likes of @garyvee, @suebzimmerman, and @mollymarshallmarketing.

I think these three in particular do a good job of finding the right balance between being personal and staying on message.

This concept of a personal brand brings up another issue for me.

This is all about business!

No one (at least not many) likes it when someone starts off all friendly and then turns around and wants to tell you about their “great opportunity.” (Sorry, Mlmer’s)

I think a lot of personal brands are faking it to the extreme. I feel icky when I follow them. And that is the exact feeling we want to avoid creating at all costs.

The best path I see is to be very open about your business.

When you go to a store, the store owner behind the counter isn’t trying to pretend he’s not in business. In fact, he most likely loves his business and loves what he sells. So do I!