This article is part of STYLE’s Luxury Column … A recent and thought-provoking article by Kaitlyn Tiffany in The Atlantic raises the prospect of a worrying social media trend: “The internet has decided that Pfizer is significantly cooler than Moderna – but why?” The article describes a growing tendency, particularly on TikTok, to rank the vaccines according to their cool factor. Here’s how Apple, Peloton and China’s Keep are disrupting fitness and apparel markets Sad new for me, as it turns out, since I am now fully vaccinated with the Moderna shot, which is apparently the least cool of all. Slate ’s Heather Schwedel said that a source had casually told her: “One of my cousins got Moderna, and I was like, ‘That’s OK. We need a strong middle class.’” Over various social media platforms, thousands of discussions are heating up about what the “hot person” vaccine is – and so far Pfizer appears to be winning out, with statements like “only hot people get the Pfizer vaccine” and even a clip of a young pharmacy technician telling viewers that one of the side effects of the Pfizer shot is “feeling like a bad bitch”. How luxury brands Gucci, Versace and Mercedes-Benz are engaging LGBT shoppers According to the TikTokverse, anyone who gets that other mRNA vaccine (which, for the record, is comparable in almost every way), is a “peasant”. Nevertheless, fans of Dolly Parton have claimed to follow her preference for Moderna. But in general, according to The Atlantic article, the other vaccines trend behind in their preference by the social media crowd. Of course, whether a vaccine is seen as the one favoured by the rich and beautiful is neither here nor there – it bears no relation to its performance. And this is where things get interesting when it comes to luxury. In luxury, the value a brand creates is strongly correlated to the value consumers perceive it to have. In my experience, value is driven only to a lesser extent by the features a product boasts – its performance – but much more by the story the brand tells. The Atlantic article asks experts to weigh in, with one argument that presents itself being that the name Pfizer sounds more luxurious, with a hardly pronounced “P,” similar to the “H” in Hermès. The expert interviewed adds that the name Moderna may be too descriptive to trigger the perception of luxury and value. Factors like these may play a role in forming the perception, however this would be too easy to describe the phenomenon. Our research has shown that the perception of luxury is strongly driven by the perception of being an innovator and influencer. Brands like Louis Vuitton , Hermès and Gucci have been the innovators in their respective categories over the years thanks to several disruptive moves, as often described in my previous Inside Luxury columns for STYLE . Since Pfizer was the first vaccine to be approved in the US and its efficacy ranks among the world’s highest, it is not a surprise that people see it as the trailblazer. Another critical aspect is the one of social protection, which explains why private aviation and holidays in remote, secluded places like private islands are booming during the pandemic. Pfizer, already a globally recognised leader in pharmaceuticals, is in a great position to create extreme value for consumers beyond tangible facts and figures. What to expect from Gucci’s first foray into high watchmaking What can luxury brands learn from this? The value of a brand is defined by the perception of consumers and nothing else. Whatever the brand story is that a brand intends to convey, the only thing that matters is what consumers perceive. While this may sound like stating the obvious, it is fascinating to observe how many brands don’t act accordingly. As an example, very few brands monitor the real-time development of their social media sentiment in core countries. And if they do, the results are often not granular enough, come too late, are interpreted on the wrong level or they don’t trigger critical decisions early enough. Auto Shanghai’s Tesla killers: the cars putting China brands ahead for Gen Z Whenever I tell a brand to upgrade its digital marketing capabilities, including artificial intelligence-supported data analytics tools, the first push back is on cost. However, even examples like online chatter about the vaccine shows how fast brand perception can be influenced by people independent of the brand. Without real-time knowledge, brands regularly weaken their market position. What is often seen as an unnecessary cost is in fact the best investment a brand can make, especially since online sentiment is not always as positive as Pfizer’s in this case. And when brands get out of sync with their audiences, every moment counts. Is an Apple Watch really better than a Swiss timepiece? The more fundamental learning is that extreme value is created through stories: stories brands tell or stories people tell. Brand positioning and storytelling are closely related but a weak point for many brands. I personally am very grateful that I already got fully vaccinated and that “my” vaccine, the Moderna shot, is not necessarily seen as the “hot people’s vaccine”. With much of the world waiting to get access to Covid-19 vaccines , any vaccine with a solid efficacy and a high safety record is a phenomenal option. Want more stories like this? Sign up here. Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .