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“Wow! It's cool”: the meaning of coolness in marketing

Kaleel Rahman (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 21 October 2013




The purpose of this paper is to explore the common meaning of vernacular usage of “cool” in terms of the related concepts consumers use to describe the term, using the symbolic interactionist perspective.


Using literature review, we first analyse how cool has evolved from its original meaning to its contemporary form in global consumer culture (GCC). Next, from a content analysis approach, using associative group analysis (Szalay and Deese, 1978) we determine the cultural meaning of cool from a sample of young respondents (n=127) drawn from United Arab Emirates. Then, using another set of respondents (n=98), we assess the statistical reliability of our themes.


Results of our analysis indicate that there is a common set of themes describing the term cool: fashionable, amazing, sophisticated, unique, entertaining, eye-catching and composed. Fashionable theme significantly dominates the meaning of cool.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are only limited to GCC and cannot be generalised to others.

Practical implications

Even though the meaning of cool is attributed to emotional control and detachment in the literature (Pountain and Robins, 2000), manifestation of coolness in its meaning of fashionable, amazing and eye-catching dominate the concept in GCC.


Cool is a heavily used term by marketing practitioners. However, empirical literature uncovering the meaning of cool is still in its infancy in marketing. This research provides a view of what cool means to consumers in a GCC.



The author would like to thank the American University in Dubai School of Business Administration for funding of this study as part of the school's Faculty-Student Mentorship Grant programme. Accordingly, the author is thankful to the two research assistants Aditee Harjani and Anjalidevi Thoomban. The author also likes to thank the insightful comments offered by the three anonymous reviewers.


Rahman, K. (2013), "“Wow! It's cool”: the meaning of coolness in marketing", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 31 No. 6, pp. 620-638.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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