Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who Hates Your Brand?

What happens when you force people to choose sides?

Some will love you for it.

Others will hate your guts.

Same is true in the wide-frickin' open world of brand strategy where you have to decide who you choose to lose.

Otherwise, no one is really going to love your brand anyway.

Business owners are often shocked to discover their companies are not $100 dollar bills. Their products and services won't be universally liked by everyone. That's why you won't find any "brands of distinction" operating in what's called the "mushy middle"; a cliche-infested swamp of sameness that exists between the razor-edge extremes of love and hate.

For a brand to be effective, it has to be bold.

It has to stand for something.

And be willing to plant a flag on top of mountain it will die for.

Even at the risk of offending potential customers.

The best brands in the world never got to be that way by playing it safe or the role of Switzerland. Neutrality is not what great brands are made of.

Which is why it's worth studying the new Miracle Whip campaign, which has the gonads to say you either love us or hate us.

The Laws of Magnetic Polarity dictate that a force which attracts one substance, will also repel another with equal force. In brand development, it means your ability to attract legions of customers cannot exceed the potential to repel.

Isn't it intriguing how a simple food preference can evolve into an epic battle between the forces of good and evil?

Products and services represent the tangible in terms of WHAT you offer customers. But, a brand represents the intangible elements that signal HOW you are different and WHY they should choose you. Successful brands can help a failed product, but a successful product cannot help a failed brand.

When it comes to developing brand strategy, there’s no yin without yang. You can’t be all things to all people and build a legacy-driven, brand of distinction. The best you can do is wear a badge of ownership, virtually interchangeable with many other competitors in your category.

Which is why so many companies are still mired in the “mushy middle”, afraid to take a stand. Unwilling to risk pissing someone off.

Whe it comes to your own brand, can you identify who really does hate you or should hate you? Is there something your brand can adapt from the Kraft campaign with Miracle Whip?

Does it increase or diminish the value of this brand? How much buzz do you think they would they have generated with a "kumbaya, everyone loves us”, Caspar Milquetoast-type campaign?

Personally, I applaud Kraft for rolling the dice and forcing consumers to "get off the fence" when it comes to the polarizing taste of Miracle Whip. While I'm not a big fan of the product (and will only consume a light spreading under duress), I do see the wisdom in drawing a line in the branding sand.

Could developing an authentic (seamless) brand also mean exposing its less than flattering sides of the product and embrace warts-and-all reality?

Is this a card your customer would love to see you play?

“Better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you are not”

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4 comments: said...

It's funny that you posted this today. Just last evening, one of my clients left pissed off at me. I called her out on not upholding the standards of the workout and she left pretty angry.

I tell my gym-going members, there are standards for a reason. You either do it, or you leave. There is not room for grey.

Thanks for the reassurance that it's ok to have people mad at you :)


Steve said...

Great points Gair. I've written a similar post about Justin Bieber. My kids HATE him... but they know exactly who he is, where he is from, and what songs he sings.

It is impossible to be loved universally, but it is possible to be known universally.

MMA is another great example. Banned in some cities and countries, but still the fastest-growing spectator sport in America.

Gair Maxwell said...

Glad you guys liked the post ... I composed it last week, then noticed Steve Jones came out with a similar angle on his "Brand Like a Rock Star" blog (see below)and I would agree that you never have to wonder where you stand with KISS, Bieber or MMA ...each of them are great examples of how not to take a safe, diplomatic,Swiss-styled approach to branding ...

Dave said...

I'm going out in no mans land here, I loved the commercials, strong and true but is it a little more comforting to have some hate you when selling millions instead of hundreds? Humour helps for sure.
The first commercial is absolutely shameless and powerful and is one in a million, a pleasure to watch.