Products Need ‘Cool’ To Thrive

Sign up here to receive posts like this in your inbox, every week.

I look forward to pitching AirShr every day. I’ve pitched it over 1,100 times to just about every age group from 10-year-old children to 70-year-old grand parents. After each pitch I pause and look for two things — the first word (or phrase) the recipient responds with and how long it takes them to respond.

In doing so I uncovered a remarkably valuable feedback tool to fine-tune AirShr’s proposition.

It’s ‘COOL’. It’s not an acronym. It’s not a phonetic play on another word. It’s just cool. So when was the last time you responded “that’s COOL!” to an idea?

There’s a good chance it was an emotive response, nearly a reflex, to something you intuitively appreciated. This is really important because whenever ‘cool’ is used it carries with it a rapid and implicit validation, almost an encouragement, to those still in the dark to experience the coolness.

Even more important is the fact that although cool means different things to different people, it has a galvanising quality regardless of age or culture. If a grandparent asks a grandchild what they think of a gift and the response is ‘cool’, the grandchild is intuitively appreciating what they received. If you overhear someone using broken english to describe a recent experience as ‘cool’, odds are their comment will peak your interest, if only for a second.

And how long does it normally take for someone to respond with “that’s cool” (if indeed it is, cool)? One to three seconds, tops. If you’re met by a long delay (greater than say 5 seconds), a clarifying question or just a look of sheer confusion, it’s likely that your idea (and/or pitch) isn’t cool and needs work.

So in an extremely short interaction two things happen. The messenger introduces a new idea to someone and increases their social currency and the recipient learns something new. In any case, whether cool or not, you get to ask one question: “Why do you think this is a cool (or not cool) idea?” This is where the true value lies because you get to learn more about how your idea is perceived, if it resonates and ultimately whether it will solve a problem for a large group of people.

As strange as it may sound, there is one important reason why the number of ‘Cools’ and not cools (and the corresponding answers to why the idea is cool or not cool) should be understood: Every person that responds with ‘Cool’ is at the very least a future alpha or beta tester of your concept (so ask if they’re up for testing and collect their contact details) and at very best they are one of your first future customers. Every ‘not cool’ responder is providing feedback of equal value, learn from it!

So here’s the punchline: I think a collection of ‘cool’ / ‘not cool’ responses serve as one of the earliest forms of idea validation available to entrepreneurs. This collection is made stronger as the proportion of friends and family responses decreases (because ‘friendly’ bias is less of an issue).

To that end, it’s also a precursor to the Net Promoter Score (NPS), the customer loyalty metric developed by Fred Reichheld and promoted internationally by Bain & Company. NPS is based on asking one question to customers: How likely are you to recommend our company / product / service to your friends and colleagues? It’s a great question to ask if you have a company or an existing product or service. Not so helpful if all you have is an idea that cannot be recommended.

In my experience the more compelling product ideas are greeted with a higher number of ‘cool’ responses. So when was the last time you responded “that’s COOL!” to an idea?