CoolBrands 2010/2011

The CoolBrands site

Yesterday, that would be Sunday 3rd October, I stumbled upon a rather interesting little supplement inside that day’s edition of The ObserverCoolBrands® 2010/2011. Being a brand identity designer I was obviously intrigued. I hadn’t previously heard of CoolBrands®.


What & Who Is CoolBrands®?

In the supplements own words, CoolBrands® is “an annual initiative to identify and pay tribute to the nation’s coolest brands”. The project, since 2001, has “commissioned an independent survey of experts and consumers to produce a yearly barometer of the coolest brands, people and places in Britain”.

The first thing that struck me about the CoolBrands® supplement was the design of it. In two words: rather nice! It uses a simple colour scheme of mint green and yellow and is set in, yes, Helvetica. The layout of the entire supplement is neatly aligned in strict grids and reminds me very much of the Swiss/International style of graphic design. Very pleasing and easy on the eye indeed.


But wait a minute, what IS cool?

Well, yes, you do raise a valid question. What, when you get down to it, is cool?

We’re given various definitions from several CoolBrands® experts. Paul Rodgers, Editor of BBC 6 Music, notes, “Cool is an abstract concept that means different things to different people. Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. What defines us as a radio station is our sense of freedom and different identity”.

Natalie Brown, Senior Brand Manager of Green & Black’s, a company specialising in high-quality, high-cocoa, sustainably sourced organic chocolate in the UK, adds that, “To earn cool status you need to be a leader, not a follower, and to retain that status you need to continue to stay ahead”. I think she makes a powerful point. Catherine Salway, Brand Director of the Virgin Group, mentions that, “As a brand (or indeed as a person), if you proclaim yourself to be cool, then immediately you are not”. This is, indeed, very true and further highlights the need to position and market yourself, as a leader in your field, in such a way that you get other people to recognise you as “cool”.

I think one of the most fascinating points about what “cool” is was offered by Dr. Ulrich Bez, Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin: “Once you can define precisely why a brand is cool, then it no longer has the magic that earns it that label. There has to be an element of fantasy, something that eludes definition. In order for a brand to have that quality, it needs people behind it with a passionate, creative vision who care for and nuture it”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself, Dr. Bez.


What’s Becoming Cool According to CoolBrands®?

In a nutshell? We are, essentially, seeing the War Of Cool between “geek” and “chic”. We can observe this in a few examples:

  • The BBC iPlayer jumped up the CoolBrands® ranking this year to 11th, compared to last year’s 20th, a rise comparable to that of the explosive debut of the iPhone;
  • Other technology brands, such as Bang & Olufsen, rose from 9th to 5th and the Nintendo Wii made an impressive  debut at 7th;
  • RIM’s Blackberry brand phones also climbed the ladder quite dramatically, rising up to 4th, showing that the Blackberry is making its move out of boardrooms and into the mainstream consciousness;
  • The signature high heels of Jimmy Choo climbed speedily up the rankings this year to 20th from last year’s 40th;
  • British fashion icon Alexander McQueen jumped from 38th to 19th;
  • And, finally, Aston Martin regained its position at the top from last year’s leader: Apple’s iPhone.

To see the CoolBrands® 2010/11 results, visit, there is also now a luxurious, hardback book available from the site as well. Furthermore, you can send your nominations for the 2011/12 list.


What Do YOU Think Is Cool?

I am very interested to hear what you think is cool! Perhaps you feel there’s a brand out there that hasn’t gained the recognition you feel it deserves? Share them with me! Plus, what do you think cool is? How would you define it? And how would you go about attaining it?

Ian Cylkowski aka Izo

Logo & Brand Identity Design

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