Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Brands: Embrace Your Haters

Tom Denari wrote a thought-provoking column for Fast Company this week.  The article is titled, "Why Being Hated Isn't the Worst Thing For Your Brand."   Denari stresses that, as brands become popular, haters may emerge.   The typical reaction of a brand manager might be to become very concerned about these negative reactions from some portion of the public.   Denari argues that we shouldn't necessarily panic if we encounter some "hate" from certain consumers:

Despite the lip service that some marketers pay to “breaking through the clutter,” many more are too often concerned that they actually might stand out, and possibly even offend someone. Being conspicuous does create the potential for negative feedback, since everyone can’t like everything.  But a successful brand manager knows the brand can’t be for everyone. The more salient a brand becomes, those that aren’t a part of that brand experience can sometimes become opponents.

Denari argues that many brand managers are risk averse.  They worry about what their bosses will think.  They are concerned about the risks associated with negative public reactions to a brand, its image, and its marketing.  

This argument reminds me of Harvard Professor Youngme Moon's great book, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd.  In that book, she describes "hostile brands."   These companies truly stand out in a crowded marketplace by deliberating taking a hostile approach toward certain consumers, so as to make themselves highly popular to the target customer that they wish to attract.   She uses the MiniCooper as an example, describing how their initial marketing did not apologize for how small the vehicle was.  It did not try to convince us that the car was quite roomy.  Instead, the company positioned vehicle as a sort of "anti-SUV."   Being making themselves "hostile" to the SUV consumer, MiniCooper became immensely popular with the customer it hoped to attract.  In sum, Moon seems to agree with Denari.   Embracing the haters, or at least becoming comfortable with some haters, can be productive if you are truly trying to build a brand that stands out.  

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