The 5 Characteristics which define Cool People

I heard a great interview on ABC RN's The List. Adam Ferrier is an advertising executive, consumer psychologist and author. Whilst the interview was largely to promote his book*, the wide-ranging interview covered lots of territory. 

What really interested me was when he was talking about the findings from his Masters research. In his paper Identifying Underlying Constructs in Cool PeopleFerrier identified the 5 qualities which define a cool person:

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

We recognise, admire and are influenced by the people we recognise as cool. Given the powerful qualities Adam's identified that they have, I'm sooo not surprised - the qualities are very aspirational (except I don't think you can't fake magnetism - you've either got it, or you haven't).

I recommend the podcast to you, but here's my paraphrased version of Adam's explanation of how brands/advertisers might use the concept. Products (such as Apple) aren't innately cool; they gain coolness from being a favourite of cool people. Similarly, a product loses it's coolness cachet if/when the cool people move away from the brand.

From an HR perspective, I think this paper has application to change strategy. In trying to build advocacy, project teams typically target the high impacts or those most likely to be disaffected. If the change manager instead applied this brand approach (attract the masses by attracting the cool), targetting the one or two people in the business that possess the equivalent of 'cool', put efforts into engaging them with the proposed changes and if successful, draw in the rest of the team.

Even more interesting, given the qualities the cool person possesses, it's likely they'll only engage if they see sense in the program, so bonus, bonus - they'll provide a quality check on whether the changes will fly.


Adam Ferrier's book is The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour