The 'Encyclopaedia of Brands and Branding', South Africa's definitive benchmark on branding, is celebrating its tenth edition with a bumper volume that researches amongst other things the country's ‘coolest’ brands. But the understanding of ‘cool’ in a world in which colloquial parlance changes with the weather proved to be as varied and colourful as the 100+ brands featured in this year's edition.
The 'Encyclopaedia of Brands and Branding', South Africa's definitive benchmark on branding, is celebrating its tenth edition with a bumper volume that researches amongst other things the country's 'coolest' brands. But the understanding of 'cool' in a world in which colloquial parlance changes with the weather proved to be as varied and colourful as the 100+ brands featured in this year's edition.
The publication, to be launched in Johannesburg on 14 September, polled a group of people whose lifestyles and occupations made them well qualified to define 'cool' in South Africa today. Each came from a brand nominated as 'cool' - but as the book will reveal, only some of them made it to the top in the eyes of the 3499 people interviewed in the Markinor-Sunday Times Top Brands Survey 2004.
Brands and Branding provides a platform for this survey to record the ascendance of some brands and the decline of others, together with a host of information impacting on the marketing industry in South Africa.
But to return to cool, what were the views of the gurus of cool branding?
"Cool is always Hot" was the take-out of Mike Joubert, managing director of Levi Strauss and Co, while Miles Masterson, editor of Blunt Magazine had a more earthy comment: "One man's cool is another man's crap, so to speak."
Somewhat philosophical, a little, well, cool, were the views of others: "...cool in SA is the ability to encapsulate the thrilling pulse of African urban energy", was the way Stoned Cherie's Nkhensani Manganyi has it. It is about yourself proffered Lee Kasumba, DJ and editor of Yfm and Ymag, "...a lot to do with individuality and uniqueness."
And it has a musical note too. Ayanda Tshabalala of Channel O says it is the way music makes you feel, how "the music fuels your passion, how it loves with you... the soundtrack of our lives." Another artistic touch came from Ann Wixley, activation director of Nota Bene, "Cool is a secret."
Not so for everyone, however: "The word has evolved so much that it has lost its original street meaning", according to Sefadzi Foli (MD) and Qingqile Mdlulwa of Twist Advertising. Others use many words to define the word in a brand context: "A cool brand by its very nature is indefinable, contradictory, influential, ironic, iconic, sovereign, schizophrenic, sexy, convincing, anti-establishment, subversive, visionary, critical, intelligent, original, defiant, elusive, evolutionary, revolutionary, anarchic, subjective, cheeky, objective, antagonistic, free, raw, true, stimulating, visceral, bad, outstanding, but above all, a cool brand is first."
With so much clarity about its definition, the winners of the Markinor-Sunday Times Top Cool Brands will know that they are, indeed, cool. For, as Andy Rice, brand architect at Yellowwood puts it, "...cool cannot be claimed. It must be earned."
And earned it will be come mid-September when the top 10 coolest brands in South Africa are announced. All to be said now is that amongst the top 10 are clothing, home electronics and cellphones... all those cool things we want.
The Encyclopaedia of Brands and Branding is available from leading bookstores and retails at R385. It can also be ordered directly from Affinity Advertising and Publishing, Box 672, Auckland Park, 2006, telephone 011 486 2573, facsimile 011 486 2595, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
at a cost of R345 including VAT.