marketing | June 05, 2013

Losing Its Cool: Rob Walker On Keeping Your Brand Current

What happens when that "must have" new tech gadget loses it shiny-new glow? In a new column, Marketing speaker Rob Walker writes about how certain products or brands shift from being "cool" to simply "acceptable." In the Yahoo! piece, he describes "cool" products as being "embraced by a minority that thinks of itself as having elite taste" and "acceptable," as something that has lost its zeal and become a "cultural default." A lot of tech products run into this problem, eventually resting on their popularity and creating products that turn a profit through brand recognition. "It’s bourgeois," he explains. "[Once they lose their cool] they become the brand for people who don’t want to think all that hard about what brand they are buying, and just want whatever everybody else will accept without question."

There's nothing particularly wrong with that, he notes. "[These products are] acceptable for a reason: They are perfectly fine," Walker explains. "And to state the obvious, producing an acceptable default product is an excellent position for a business to occupy." But for some buyers, this acceptability is not enough—and they look for something more innovative and unique. "Any time a brand emerges as a default, I get suspicious," Walker says. "Surely I can do better than whatever the majority thinks is 'acceptable.'" While he says that some brands can be very profitable operating in this space, there is always going to be a type of consumer that craves more from their devices.

Walker is a prominent voice on pop culture, branding, technology, and consumer behavior. In his regular column at Yahoo! and in his talks, he discusses the power of story and meaning in sales. The author of Buying In and co-founder of the Significant Objects project, Walker discusses the true nature of value. He teaches audiences how to capitalize on the "significance premium" and how to create products that are meaningful to buyers. He shows audiences how to walk the line between good storytelling and sales, and how to drive consumers to find value in your brand.


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