Recently I found myself pondering the latest CoolBrands survey – an annual survey into the coolest brands in Britain – and whilst looking over the Top 20 coolest brands for 2016/17 it dawned on me that employer brand managers could take more notice of ‘cool’. It’s a pretty safe bet that being cool and being a desirable employer is closely related. There are strong indications that people often want to work for the brands that make them feel good about themselves, enhance their social status and help them build a positive identity.

The body behind the CoolBrands survey – the centre for brand analysis –canvasses the opinions of independent experts and 2,500 members of the British public to identify the UK’s coolest brands. They’ve been announcing the coolest brands every September since 2001. It will be interesting to see how many in the 2016/17 CoolBrands Top 20 retain their Top 20 status next month.

The CoolBrands Top 20 for 2016/17 is as follows

1. Apple

2. Glastonbury

3. Netflix

4. Aston Martin

5. Nike

6. Instagram

7. Spotify

8. Adidas

9. PlayStation

10. YouTube

11. Google

12. Airbnb

13. Alexander McQueen

14. Bose

15. M.A.C

16. Sonos

17. Harley-Davidson

18. Gopro

19. CHANEL

20. Ray-Ban

Coolness is subjective and dynamic: What consumers consider cool changes over time and across consumers. What millennial candidates think is cool is likely to be different from what a candidate over fifty thinks is cool. The talent management and employer branding industry ought to be doing more to provide client firms with the means to regularly track their cool credentials, in the same way that we help them keep tabs on their brand consideration ratings or willingness to recommend scores (NPS). I’m thinking a dedicated cool tracker.

And we should not just track their coolness ratings. Consumers find it easy to say what brands are cool, but it’s much more difficult for them to say what features make a brand cool. Consumers know what is cool when they see it but they can’t always explain why. We should do more to help employers get to grips with what makes a brand appealing; how that might vary by business sector and whether you need to possess all of those things to be a cool brand.

Evidence suggests the following may be central to what makes a brand cool and so would need to be reflected in any dedicated cool tracker:

  • At the forefront of technological innovation
  • A deep understanding of the audience through immersion in their world
  • An understanding of how the target audience feels (cool is an emotion)
  • A disruptive vision
  • Originality
  • Unmistakeable quality
  • A strong (social) mission
  • An emotional connection with consumers – a brand they can love
  • Opportunities for consumers to engage with the product or service
  • Opportunities for consumers to express their individuality
  • In touch with the evolving lives of consumers
  • In touch with the consumer agenda
  • Faithful to the brand’s roots but in a contemporary, relevant way
  • Connected with the wider culture

Interestingly, celebrity endorsements are not key to being cool. At best, they will buy you some cool by association but it won’t be real. Simon Massey, of The Gild consultancy, once summed up coolness as a well-maintained combination of the zeitgeist, how you want consumers to feel, the brand’s roots, a strong stance, and stylish execution.

With our vast experience of building and managing employer brands based on real insight and intelligence via market watch reporting, competitor benchmarking and candidate insight, we in the talent management and employer branding industry are well positioned to help client firms track their cool credentials and better understand the drivers of coolness, through a dedicated cool tracker.

I’m confident there would be a strong appetite amongst employers for such a tracker.

A cool employer brands survey would mark a significant evolution in the way we build and manage employer brands. It would also go a long way towards syncing the consumer brand and the employer brand.

To quote Martina Alexander, marketing manager at Wonderbra: “cool is a perception”. So, let’s get tracking it.

Want to track your cool credentials?

More information on the CoolBrands Survey can be found at: www.coolbrands.uk.com

Katharine Newton is Head of Insight at Talent Works International (TWI). TWI is a global talent communications firm that helps organisations around the world build effective and efficient talent strategies through our research, sourcing and creative teams. For more information, contact: Katharine.newton@talent-works.com