Yes, you read that right. No, it isn’t some catchy title designed to lure you in only to then tell you that actually, yes, you want everyone to love your brand. I mean it when I say it—you genuinely want some people to have adverse opinions about your brand. Alright, let me rephrase that. Of course, no one wants people to hate their brand, but you shouldn’t mind if people do.
Why you ask? I’ll tell you.
It was a Sunday afternoon. My client called me about some Instagram posts that were going up. We were discussing the new direction we wanted to take the account—evolving beyond the product-based, sales-centric theme of the past, to a subtler, lifestyle-driven approach where the product actually takes a back seat to the muse’s adventures.
She had shared with me that some people remarked they didn’t like some of the new shots we posted. As she spoke those words, a smile spread across my face and I replied, “This is great news.” Probably the opposite reaction most people would expect me to have being a brand strategist, right? But the words were music to my ears.
THE TRUTH ABOUT BRANDING
Here’s the thing that most people don’t get about branding, and as a result, end up with some watered down, diluted, PC vanilla marketing while they scratch their heads and wonder why engagement and ROI is less than stellar. Ready for it? Strong brands draw strong reactions, and even if it is a strong negative reaction, it’s ok, because it means you’ve defined your brand. It’s as simple as that. Great branding means defining a niche, having a personality, and not wavering or compromising that position for ANYTHING—not hyper growth, not mass market appeal, not anything. Because here’s what seems like the counterintuitive truth—the longevity and success of your company depend on your adherence to the brand.
If you don’t believe me, let’s examine one of the strongest brands in the world, Apple. Apple computers didn’t set out to become the juggernaut of the computer industry; however, they are often top of mind when people think of pioneers in the computing space. Apple has arguably one of the most addictive brands in the world, and it stems from their keen focus on who they were built for, and who they weren’t. They didn’t build computers for analysts and corporations, they built computers for the everyday person, the creative, and the inspired. Investors and the mass market may have debated this direction at the inception of their company in 1976, but it has undoubtedly worked out for the over $740 billion dollar, 39-year-old company. If Jobs would have compromised his brand due to negative feedback from the market, the company wouldn’t be what it is today. In fact, the company so embraced negative reactions to their brand that they created the famous “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” campaign. You may remember it. The spot featured a hip, tech-savvy Justin long, and stodgy old buttoned up corporate America type. Did they worry about being offensive to the latter? Not at all. Did it work? You betcha.
WHY STRONG BRANDS WIN OVER PEOPLE THEY DON’T TARGET
The irony of that famous Apple commercial is that many who resembled the PC character crossed over to Apple even though the company didn’t go after this demographic; and those PCer’s crossed over because of the strength of the brand. As humans, we’re drawn to confidence and assertiveness, and we align ourselves with those who exude those qualities. We like people and companies with a strong sense of self. We don’t like people who waiver.
Let’s take a look at Donald Trump. His dominance of the Republican party is staggering, and his lead seems to widen everyday. How do you explain this? The guy isn’t politically correct, he’s heavily opinionated, and in many areas, he’s the most unqualified person for the job. However, he’s trumping the competition (sorry, that pun was just SO easy). How in the world is he doing this? It’s because he’s defined his brand. He knows the type of person he wants to appeal to and the type of person he doesn’t, and time and time again, through outspoken and often crass methods, he reinforces that brand position. Do people dislike him? Yes. Do people hate him? Absolutely. Is he leading the polls? Bingo.
WHEN YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED WITH NEGATIVE FEEDBACK
Now, having said all this, there’s times when you need to pay attention and shift your strategy if your brand is receiving negative feedback.That’s when the feedback is coming from your target market. If your target demographic is showing aversion to your brand, or isn’t responding to your brand at all, you need to be agile and shift your strategy. The key to this lies in the definition and company-wide understanding of who this person is though. The description should be robust and detailed. It should include demographics and psychographics, and most importantly, everyone from the CEO to the receptionist better be able to spout off in a moment’s notice what that ideal client wears, what they eat, where they travel, where they live, etc.
It can be tough to hear negative feedback, but strong brands operate in a world of polarity; some will love it, others will hate it. And that’s ok. Trust me, it’s better than an unenthusiastic “meh” from the general population.
Fortunately, my client realized the feedback was coming from people her product wasn’t designed for and took the negative reactions exactly how she should have—as a sign the new direction is working. The numbers support this theory; after implementing the new strategy, brand follows went up and engagement increased.
Struggling to define your brand voice? Engaging in a number of marketing tactics but not seeing traction from them? Before you throw more money at marketing, stop and get really introspective about your brand. Take a look at your copy and your ads and ask yourself if they are appealing to your target customer. Better yet, ask your target customer if they find them appealing. It’s a great exercise and can yield incredible revelations about where you need to adjust. Still stuck after that or not quite sure how to approach it? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.