How to make your marketplace COOL?


Cool. This word is being used so often we can’t seem to wrap our head around its definition anymore.

Why do we describe a public figure, brand or even a marketplace as cool? Have you given much thought to that? If you haven’t, that makes the both, or possibly, all of us.

We can look at how Airbnb has nailed being “cool”. Marketplaces are “cool” when they allow you to do something not commonly expected. For instance, Airbnb makes it possible to live in stranger’s home, which was previously uncommon. Airbnb also minimised any potential safety hazard for its renters and tenants with a screening process in place to verify its users, alongside a ratings and reviews system for reputation management. That made living in a complete stranger’s home more socially acceptable and thus addressing the appropriate element. Collectively, these aspects of Airbnb made booking travel accommodations on its marketplace cooler than when the same was done for mainstream hotels.

What exactly screams “cool” to us when a cut-and-dried method for that X factor is so elusive? Fortunately, the much-awaited revelation of this enigmatic notion is seeing the light of day. Based on some of the most concrete research, we have culled 5 pertinent pointers that will help make your marketplace as cool as a cucumber.

Be unorthodox

Half the battle is won when customers know the unique proposition of your marketplace. While breaking out of the common mould is bound to grab your marketplace some attention, be careful in overdoing it.

If your marketplace is presented in a concept so unconventional it is radical, it can do more harm than good. The tech titan Apple has demonstrated their apt use of unconventionality in this widely acclaimed campaign since 2006. Get A Mac sold the idea of owning a Macintosh so well many of the legions of loyal Microsoft users switched to using Macintosh products.

In Get A Mac campaign, Apple projected a cool image of its brand as they injected unconventionality into a series of their ads. While personification could be the last thing a computer user would relate to using Microsoft or Macintosh, this unusual method of persuading customers to use Apple’s operating software made them nonetheless cool.

Imagine Apple employed another advertising strategy where they used animals to portray the comparison, it would have proven to be too unconventional for consumers’ liking. When you tip the scales over too much to one side,  consumers may not take a liking to it and let alone find it cool. As we move to the next point, the idea of treading a fine line between unconventionality and rationality becomes a tad more salient.

Be autonomous in an appropriate way

Knowing what’s cool will give you an inkling to branding an edgy image for your marketplace. In a prominent paper by the Journal of Consumer Research on how consumers perceive coolness, coolness is defined as being “autonomous in an appropriate way” .

To be cool, one needs to deviate from the usual standards and expectations the society shackles upon the society while acting in a fitting manner. Although being rebellious and subverting against conventional beliefs are a safe bet for nailing that cool factor, it needs to be done in a manner that is still acceptable by the masses.

If Apple were to take Microsoft head-to-head in an explicit and direct comparison between the two brands, whatever marketing efforts expended previously would have come to nought. In their famous Get A Mac campaign, Apple did the comparison in a light-hearted, implicit and relatable manner, which was socially acceptable. It was an exemplary example of Apple being autonomous as it went against the norms when it personified computers. Simultaneously, Apple was still appropriate for they made the comparison relatable and tactful, it does not incite an uproar after the commercials.

Contrary to conventional beliefs, extreme unconventionally would not necessarily gain the favour of individuals even with those who are usually more open to it. In spite of the usual inclinations of innovators and early adopters who would accept radical concepts more so than the average person, that simply isn’t the case when concepts prove to be too unorthodox. In case your marketplace borders on the line of being radical, you may need to dial back on whatever you’re doing to make it cool.

Go against norms that are likely to be in your favour

Not all norms are meant to be broken. The more appropriate rules to bend or break often come down to those that make more sense. Going against norms, just for the sake of doing so and looking cool may spell disastrous results. Even though doing what everyone else isn’t makes your marketplace seem more exclusive and more likely to be cool, what kind of norm you are opposing can make or break the outcome.

As mentioned in the paper by the Journal of Consumer Research, subverting norms that seem counterintuitive may engender the opposite of the desired results. Between breaking a dress code to honour war veterans and a dictator, participants in the social experiment conducted in the paper, determined that the latter was cooler. Their judgement shed light on the importance of breaking the norm that would be more intuitive to do so, according to the societal standards and expectations we have assimilated since young.

Given that the former dress code was to applaud the bravery and altruism of the well-known figures during the war, most, if not all would follow it as there is little reason not to do so. On the contrary, aligning one’s dress code with that imposed upon by a potentially oppressive dictator gives one more incentive to break it as the code becomes restraining in some sense.

Be subjective and timely

As much as we attempt to formulate a hard and fast method to become cool, no method is universal for various reasons.

To begin with, the idea of coolness is already itself an abstract complex. This idea does not become any clearer when we have a subjective perception of coolness. As the old maxim goes, “different strokes for different folks”; what works for you may not work for someone else. Likewise, what’s cool for you could be uncool for another person.

As we face a daily deluge of information and news from our social media feeds, our perception of coolness evolves constantly. Remember how sporting bell-bottom pants were trendy in the ‘80s and ‘90s before becoming old-fashioned as the millennium approaches. Before we knew it, these previously thought-to-be uncool bell-bottoms brought retros back into style when high fashion models wore them as they strided the runways in glamorous fashion shows.

In this aspect, timing can make or break the cool image of your marketplace. Hence, knowing what the target audience of your marketplace perceives as cool and the current fads will bring you a step closer to making your marketplace cool.

In all, the gist here is to know what your targeted demographics perceive as cool and execute your branding strategies in the nick of time.

Be simple

If taking a leaf out of Apple’s book is anything to go by, simplicity is one way to inch your marketplace closer to coolness. Based on the 7 concepts of cool by Ebsco, nailing the “hassle” factor can pretty much do the trick. In other words, there needs to be minimal friction in using your marketplace, which makes it a breeze for both the merchants and buyers to use.

Skeptics may beg the question and argue how could something simple amount to coolness, much less impressive?

While many couldn’t fathom that, the ex-CEO and founder of Apple could and took to the idea like no other. Steve Jobs lived by a philosophy where simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, where he demonstrated this widely-known ideology in his prized projects, such as the iPhone and the Macintosh operating software. Unlike others, the designs are so intuitive that they were dummy-proof and simple to use. This renders the sophistication and the cool factor associated with the Apple brand.

As we decode what coolness is all about, we often become too fixated on trying to do everything to make something cool. In the process, we lose sight that often times, being simple is what we need to be cool. Granted that simple here isn’t just another euphemism for rudimentary, being simple can add to the cool element in your marketplace. Where marketplaces are concerned, minimal friction in the user experience can give yours a kickstart in being perceived as cool.

The late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs also set us thinking with this famous quote of his:  

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

If you can move mountains with your marketplace, you can most certainly be cool. Being cool is not that remote of an idea anymore. Next, we’ll look at how to make your marketplace contagious. What do the experts say about going viral? Is there a secret formula to it?

After reading our article, these are the questions that should pique your interest:
Which norm is your marketplace able to break, while staying with the boundaries of expectations imposed by the society?
How do you stay subjective and timely to the external factors that would determine if your marketplace is being perceived as cool? Think particularly in the shoes of the target audience you intend to cater to.
s the concept behind your marketplace simple to understand and the user experience a breeze for merchants and buyers alike?