When did we forget the branding lessons learned on the primary school playgrounds and popularity contests that ruled the schools of youth? Cliques. Clubs. Jocks. Nerds. Freaks. People break off and identify with people and trends they like. And who’s more vocal about being a rabid fan of something than a kid?
I love Depeche Mode!
Z-Cavarricis are the only pants I wear!
Thomas the Train!
And while the prom queen might have been the most popular girl in the school, it doesn’t mean she was the smartest. It just meant that she got the most votes.
Holy Christmas – would you stop trying to be the prom queen and start paying attention to your brand already?
- Depeche Mode wasn’t trying to win over fans of country music.
- Z-Cavariccis weren’t target marketed to Nebraska farm boys.
- They don’t broadcast Thomas the Train at prime time.
Why? Because they understand their markets and with WHOM they are unpopular.
How will YOU build YOUR brand to be unpopular?
Unpopular isn’t bad
Perhaps it’s the stigma we carry over that was attached to the popularity contests of our youth. Votes, yearbooks, crowns…if you’ve ever been picked last for dodgeball, you know the feeling sucks. But are you really going to sit there and tell me that you’re building a business designed for everyone under the sun? I spent this past weekend at SOBCon Colorado, a small business incubator designed to put ideas into action for business owners. My speaking partner, John Cushman (CEO, Solany) and I started the conference off asking the audience: do you know who you serve and have you built a business model to serve them?
And I asked the audience to consider Oprah Winfrey.
She is one of, if not THE largest media property in the United States, but there are a metric ass ton of people reading this post who will stand up in the middle of a major league baseball game and yell, “I hate Oprah!” (And if you’re an Eminem fan – as I am – do yourself a solid and check out Cori Padget’s post on his branding technique). An example of brands that are successful because they understand that they don’t serve everyone. They’ve successfully turned “being unpopular” into currency that they cash in with the people who adore them.
When we stop trying to please everyone and have a clear vision of who we don’t want to please, the branding process becomes much more clear.
Think inside out
I get it that “unpopular” has a stigma attached to it. Trust me – I get it. I lose business because of it every day…and I don’t mind because I’ve turned my thinking about the branding process and my business model inside out. Each day, I focus on who I don’t want to serve and please. That helps me do three very important things:
- It keeps me from taking work I’m not passionate about, and thus, I’ve stopped wasting my time.
- I can serve those whom I want to serve with more enthusiasm.
- Those whom I serve never feel shortchanged, because I’m not fucking around with trying to be everything to everyone (insert Everclear song lyrics *here*)
Turn your thinking inside out. Start with what you don’t want and take that crap out of the mix. Stop building Joe’s Mortuary and Fine Sausage Emporium and get some focus. I never eat at restaurants that serve Thai food and pizza.
There is no try. Get a little Yoda on the prom queen. Believe me when I say that two feet of green alien could do your brand a world of good. Jonathan Fields spoke this weekend about creating an avatar for your ideal customer. Read that post, because if you missed SOBCon, he’s dropping some mad branding knowledge. Admit to yourself – sculpt for yourself – who you want to serve and stop being afraid of telling part of the world that you don’t want their business! If Swingline can build a world of rabid fans around Milton’s red stapler, YOU can sit down and do a little work on your strategy. And if Crocs, the world’s uglies shoes, can build a rabid fan base (and even find their way into the closet of a certain redhead who scored them as schwag at a speaking gig) YOU can embrace being unpopular.
Do you want to be the world’s prom queen or do you want to be considered a thought leader among the people who are most likely to spread your brand’s message? There’s a difference. Hell, even the prom queen only ruled one school (and for a fleeting moment, nonetheless).
Being unpopular isn’t about focusing on the dislike. It’s about structuring your business and branding efforts with direction and purpose. Identify WHY you’re unpopular, turn it into currency and spend it on the people who appreciate what it is that you do better than anyone.
You’ve been slapped.
PS: I’ve said it before, but Chris Brogan has, perhaps, one of the best quotes on why popularity votes don’t matter:
“A ‘following’ will watch you fall on a sword. A ‘community’ will fall on the sword for you.”
Being popular builds a following. Understanding how you’re unpopular and leveraging that knowledge builds a community.