For the second year in a row Aston Martin has finished runner-up to Apple in the annual CoolBrands list, with Mercedes-Benz rising from 16th last year to 11th in this year’s 2013 survey.

As in previous years the brands are chosen from a range of sources, from sector reports to independent blogs. From the thousands initially identified these are then whittled down to 1,150 brands which are then scored by two separate groups of voters – an expert council of 37 opinion-formers and around 3,000 members of the British public selected via an online panel.

The criteria used to score each brand includes; style, innovation, originality, authenticity, desirability and uniqueness.

While ‘cool-ness’ is clearly a subjective quality, in essence a cool brand should inspire admiration, aspiration, a willingness to associate and a mutual sense of identity between the brand and customer.

2013 has been Aston Martin’s centenary year, so the brand has been in the forefront of people’s minds more than it normally would.
Aston Martin (2nd place)

Last month we filmed a documentary with Ten Alps-owned Blakeway Productions called ‘Secrets of Successful Brands’, where I joined Dr Ulrich Bez and Marek Reichman to talk about the key to Aston Martin’s staying power as one of the world’s top brands.

In it we speak about Aston’s quintessential ‘Britishness’, the brand’s connection with James Bond and the tactile appeal of their cars, but perhaps the single most appealing quality is their ‘never-say-die’ track record of survival.

In the last century Aston Martin has been to the brink and back more times than 007 himself, but like Bond, it lives to fight another day. In fact I counted seven times in which the company reached financial insolvency, before being saved by a wealthy benefactor. Nowadays the business is far better managed and the recent deal with Investindustrial should underpin many more years of growth, but Aston Martin are a very resourceful company.

Most people can identify (and indeed admire) such persistence and by wearing such a brand we identify with its ‘bulldog spirit’, but the proof of the pudding can be seen in their brand value which is second only to Ferrari in the automotive world.

Much of the aspiration content published about Aston Martin (including this one) is unpaid for, which demonstrates that it’s a brand people talk about, which is ultimately the same quality buyers seek when driving their cars.

Mercedes Benz (11th place)

Mercedes-Benz on the other hand are a completely different kind of brand. Like Aston Martin, most of their cars are desirable, stylish and recognised for the innovation they bring to market – such as in the hi-tech S-Class luxury saloon.

But the biggest change in 2013 has been the introduction of the new A-Class and compact CLA four-door coupé.

Prior to this, the A-Class was a car whose natural demographic was more ‘silver surfer’ than ‘web surfer’ but with the third-generation W176 model, customers are choosing it for its looks and driving appeal over the previously class-leading BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

Mercedes-Coolbrands-TinieTempah_G1Musician Tinie Tempah is currently working with Mercedes-Benz to promote the A-Class, filming the two-part #StylePitStop series with Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates.

Of course the 355bhp A45 AMG doesn’t hurt that appeal, but simply put the Mercedes-Benz brand is becoming increasingly seen as more relevant to consumers and more attainable to those who aspire for more – namely the all-important millennial Gen Y buyers.

According to Mercedes-Benz, AMG is the UK’s fastest-growing high performance brand, which has gone from being niche to become a core ingredient of every Mercedes-Benz showroom.

The Automotive CoolBrands League Table (From Top 700)

The Coolbrands list only publishes the Top 20 positions, and while there are still 13 automotive brands in the Top 700, one of those brands is a new entrant – McLaren Cars, while Land Rover has now dropped out of the 2013 list.

Both McLaren and Land Rover are growing, but while McLaren has the ultra-unique 903bhp P1 in its range, Land Rover might be a victim of its own success. The Range Rover Evoque has become so popular that its ubiquity counts against it in the coolness stakes – to counter this Land Rover are investing in its desirability with a range of new engines, a nine-speed gearbox and a hybrid powertrain.

But will this raise the brand’s appeal to the all important millennium generation? That’s the dilemma Land Rover now faces — coolness correlates with aspiration and this in turn is driven by younger generations. How many Evoques do you see being driven by someone under 30?

CoolBrands 2013/14

Brand Position  
Aston Martin 2 2  0
Mercedes-Benz 11 16  +5
Audi Qualifier
Bentley Qualifier
BMW Qualifier
Ferrari Qualifier
Jaguar Qualifier
Lamborghini Qualifier
Maserati Qualifier
McLaren New Entrant DNQ**
MINI Qualifier
Porsche Qualifier
Rolls-Royce Qualifier
Land Rover DNQ** Qualifier
**Did not qualify in the Top 700 brands.