Homer: So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.
Bart: Dad, what you just said was powerfully uncool.


The Coolbrands top 20 list, now in its 13th year, has just been released for 2014. A thousand brands whittled down (by a heady mix of experts, randomly chosen celebrities and 2000 members of the public) to this, the coolest 20 brands:


Aston Martin
Dom Pérignon
Bang & Olufsen
Alexander McQueen
Virgin Atlantic
Stella McCartney


These sort of lists are always going to be open to disagreement. Taking the Coolbrands name at face value, I can understand Ray-Ban and Instagram (new for this year), to my eyes they are in their own ways pretty cool but Virgin Atlantic? Cool? Really?


Then I realised I’m reading this list all wrong. It might be called Coolbrands, but what the list really shows are the organisations with the best, most efficient branding. Lets take two examples from the list, the all conquering Apple (no. 1, again) and the Saucy Fish Co, the Grimsby based Fish brand.


These two brands are, ostensibly, as different as chalk and cheese. On the one hand, one of the biggest corporations in the world, on the other, a company that makes upmarket fish and sauce based ready meals.


But when you consider the design and branding, the intangible assets as it were, the two are actually very similar and in fact go a long way to explaining how Apple turned over 170 billion dollars last year and how The Saucy Fish Co became a 35 million pound business in just 3 years.


For instance, both utilise a minimalist approach that allows the brand message to shout, loud and clear. The products might be worlds apart, but the design of the packaging (just to take one example), certainly isn’t…



Highly effective conduits for the product but also (and far more importantly), the brand itself.


Another characteristic of an effective brand (and how important that brand is) is how protective the organisation is when it feels the brand is being threatened. My favourite Apple lawsuit of recent years being directed at a tiny German café (whose title translates as ‘Apple Child’), while The Saucy Fish Co recently took (understandable) umbrage at Aldi’s remarkably similar ‘saucy’ range.


In lots of cases, the branding on show in the Coolbrands top 20 is the most valuable asset of the company. Strip Apple, The Saucy Fish Co, Ray-Ban or Dom Perignon of their brands and you would have a massive, probably impossible, rebuilding job.


‘Coolbrands’ has a nice sound to it – it is obvious why they chose it. Certainly better than ‘Well-organisedbrands’ (they have their own branding to think about after all), but I’d argue that this is exactly what we are looking at on this list. The twenty most efficacious brands in the UK.


Which doesn’t take away the achievement of getting on the list – very much something to be proud about in The Saucy Fish Co headquarters up in Grimsby.