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Consuming cool: Behind the unemotional mask

Research in Consumer Behavior

ISBN: 978-0-85724-443-7, eISBN: 978-0-85724-444-4

Publication date: 21 December 2010


Purpose – We use data from the United States and Finland, a literature review, and historical analysis to understand the concept and role of cool within global consumer culture.

Methodology/approach – This is a conceptual review and qualitative analysis of data from depth interviews, journals, and online discussion groups in two U.S. locations and one Finnish location.

Findings – Cool is a slang word connoting a certain style that involves masking and hiding emotions. As cool diffuses we find that it is both distilled and diluted. The concept itself has also evolved. What was once a low-profile means of survival and later a youthful rebellious alternative to class-based status systems has become commoditized.

Research limitations/implications – The study has been conducted in two cultures with a limited range of ages thought to be most susceptible to the appeal of being cool.

Practical limitations/implications – Marketers may not yet have exploited cool as effectively as they have exploited sex, but mainstream consumers now look for cool in the marketplace more than within themselves. The result is a continuous race to offer the next cool thing.

Originality/value of chapter – It is argued that coolness is a new status system largely replacing social class, especially among the young.


Belk, R.W., Tian, K. and Paavola, H. (2010), "Consuming cool: Behind the unemotional mask", Belk, R.W. (Ed.) Research in Consumer Behavior (Research in Consumer Behavior, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 183-208.



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