I was reading a book on marketing this morning (as is my wont) and there was a section on how people buy certain things because they self-identify with the brand. I was remembering a friend’s t-shirt from dinner last night which said “Whedonist”, referring to Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame.
This friend is a fan of the Buffy TV series, directed by Joss Whedon, and she was, albeit subtly, advertising this fact to the world at large. They may have also assumed she was a fan of Angel (she is), and possibly Firefly (no idea). She self-identifies as someone who is a fan of Joss Whedon, and wants other people to know. No doubt others who are of a similar mind would notice, and possibly strike up a conversation.
So by advertising your likes to the world, you are identifying yourself as belong to a particular tribe (according to Seth Godin), and helping other tribe members to find you. But what about the opposite effect? What if you’re simultaneously trying to warn off people from other tribes, so they stay away? Like a bumblebee’s warning stripes, what if, by saying you’re a Whedonist, you’re warning people who hate Buffy with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns to stay well away?
Doing It On Purpose
And how might you consciously tap into these sorts of feelings? What if your marketing message is specifically designed to attract people who want a group of other people to stay away from them? What if you want people to buy your stuff so they can tell other people to go away?
I’d argue that this already happens. Goths are advertising the tribe they belong to, and simultaneously warning preppies to bugger off. Hippies are telling suits to take a hike. Linux weenies are telling the Microsoft sales rep not to bother.
This is also known as “Picking An Enemy”, where you position your company or brand as the polar opposite of someone else. “We are the anti-“, you’re saying. “They are our nemesis. The Other. And we must stick together if we are to outsmart, outrun, and outlast them. So buy my stuff and join the fight.”
In fact, I know this already happens, with sports teams. Many of them have an arch-rival team, and those particular games are closely watched by those aware of the long-lasting enmity between the protagonists. (That was a fun sentence to write). I’m sure lots of other brands do the same thing. The “Mac vs. PC” ads, for example, and the BlackBerry Storm ad with the bullet through the apple.
Know Your Enemy
Listening to a Stack Overflow podcast, I was struck that their elevator pitch contained the idea that they were “not Experts-Exchange”. They defined their idea as much by what it was, as by what it was not. This really helps people to understand what you’re about, very quickly.
I reckon that if you don’t have a very good idea of what your company or brand is, then you should at least know what it isn’t. Know what you’re not going to do. Then at least you won’t waste as much time doing things you know you definitely shouldn’t, and you’re more likely to do something you probably should.
So I’m off to figure out what I’m not going to do today.