Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hostile Brands

I'm continuing to read HBS Professor Youngme Moon's terrific new book, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. I recently finished her chapter on "hostile brands" - what a thought-provoking notion. She argues that some brands have differentiated very successfully by almost daring you to purchase their product. They polarize in many ways, causing some customers to love them with great passion while others hate them with equal fervor. These brands make it very clear that they are not for everyone. For instance, she talks about the Mini Cooper's entry into the United States. The brand made no apologies for being a small vehicle in a country that, at the time, was completely in love with the SUV. They actually boasted of the fact that the vehicle was very small, the anti-SUV if you will. Similarly, she describes Hollister's strategy. The store environment is quite hostile to parents, and that is quite intentional. Professor Moon makes the point that the brand, in many ways, is quite hostile to girls who are not slim. She finds that disturbing to some degree, but at the same time, she acknowledges that it may be a successful differentiation strategy in the marketplace. I love the fact that she concludes that hostile brands may make us uncomfortable at times, but in the end, their polarizing nature makes them stand out in a sea of homogeneity.

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