The new measurement scale: why cool isn’t good enough and everything has to be epic

Once upon a time, when we said something was cool it was enough for others to pay attention. ‘Cool’ wasn’t just a word—it was a measurement. It was a stamp of approval, a confirmation of the worth of an idea or project.

As new products and ideas come our way, more and more of them are surpassing the measure of ‘cool’ that we once used. We’re seeing startups and services that by far exceed the measurement ‘cool.’ Our measurement scale—and thus, our expectations—continue to rise as new ideas push the boundaries.

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Nowadays, if something is ‘cool,’ this is quite a let-down. Cool isn’t good enough anymore. You might get by on ‘cool,’ you might survive, but you won’t smash it. This is how we determine success now: are you smashing it? Killing it? Whipping it? Whipping it good? Are you exceeding expectations? Are you totally, completely blowing us out of the water?

Are you doing something epic?

Why be cool?

If you’re not doing something epic, you’re not necessarily failing. Epic isn’t the standard for survival—you can still survive with a cool product or idea.

Doing something cool might give you a short-term boost in publicity, traffic or sales. It might give you a great story to tell, it might help flesh out your brand more.

…when you can be epic?

But epic: now that’s worth talking about. Epic ideas exceed expectations. They go above and beyond what we think is possible. Epic products are worth talking about. Epic services surprise people.

Epicness goes a long way—it doesn’t get forgotten after a weekend.

A closer look at being epic

There have been some great examples recently of epic marketing plans, brand stories and product ideas. The kind of awesomeness that we all wish we’d thought of as soon as we hear about it.

KLM Surprise

In November 2010, Dutch airline KLM ran a social media campaign to surprise passengers. Using publicly available information from Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook, the company tracked customers who were flying on the airline and presented many of them with personalized gifts at the airport.

Not only did the company go out of its way to greet its customers in person at the airport and offer them a gift, clues from personal information the customers had shared online were used to ensure that each customer got a personalized gift that was useful to them during their trip.

Old Spice commercials

Old Spice made a huge splash on the web in July 2010 with an innovative YouTube commercial campaign. Using the basic setup of actor Isaiah Mustafa in a small bathroom wearing only a towel, the brand’s advertising team created videos with messages for celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres, as well as customers who sent messages to the Old Spice Twitter account.

Again, the theme was personalization, based on specific questions or messages that were posted online.

What it means to be epic

Being epic isn’t about the best idea or business plan. It’s not about brainstorming until you’ve found a way to undercut all of your competitors.

Epic ideas like the examples above are focused on the customer: they make the customer or audience member the focus of the campaign and they surprise people.

Epic is the new standard for winning ideas.

How epic is your startup? Let us know in the comments.