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Tech products can lose 'cool' cachet if they're too successful

Feb. 12, 2014 at 2:29 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- "Cool" and desirable tech products can turn uncool when they become too popular and appear to lose their edginess, a study by Penn State researchers found.

Cool means more than just good looks, they said; technology users must consider a product attractive, original and edgy before they label those products as cool.

"Everyone says they know what 'cool' is, but we wanted to get at the core of what 'cool' actually is, because there's a different connotation to what cool actually means in the tech world," communications Professor S. Shyam Sundar said.

Coolness begins when people in groups -- subcultures -- outside the mainstream, who are seen as a step ahead of the crowd, begin to use a device, Sundar said.

Once a device gains the attention in the subculture, the product then becomes adopted by the mainstream, and therein lies a problem, he said.

"It appears to be a process," he explained. "Once the product loses its subculture appeal, for example, it becomes less cool, and therein lies the challenge."

Companies want their products to become cool and increase sales, Sundar said, but after sales increase the products become less cool and sales suffer.

"It underscores the need to develop an innovation culture in a company," he said. "For a company to make products that remain cool, they must continually innovate."

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