Your brand sometimes must offend to win.

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

I had recently shown a colleague a campaign we were working on and asked him his opinion. He would have a valuable viewpoint of being like our customer, who will see it for the first time, without any explanation or background. He would see it cold and fresh, like all of our potential customers. My colleague’s feedback surprised me. He completely hated it and thought we should have hired someone with better online code skills and a designer who could make it “lighter and more easy on the eyes.” I know we’re not always right and can always improve, but I didn’t think we had missed it that much. If he was right, where did we go wrong? What did we miss?

That got me thinking about purpose. Even though I wanted to have someone who hadn’t seen it before to look at it as a new prospect would, my colleague wasn’t the real target I had in mind when creating the campaign. The purpose was to connect with a different group. If your brand and marketing is aligned with your core audience, you will turn off some of the market segment. And that’s when you know you have it right. Your marketing not only helps you gain customers, but it should qualify them as well. You’re not after everyone, just the ones that are most profitable for your business and who can become loyal, raving fans of your brand. By keeping your brand image selective, you become more of what you want your customers to see you as. You become more expert, more exclusive, more desirable, etc. If your brand communicates your core purpose, then you will lose some people. In reality, that’s great. This helps legitimizes you to those you want. For example, in order to connect with their core audience, Dog Town had to “offend” the parents. Dog Town is a premier skateboard brand. They have a rich heritage of rebelling against the current norm and creating their own brand of skateboarding. (They are the predecessors of Tony Hawk). By being offensive to parents (read “accepted norm”), they become legitimate to their core customers, the kids who ride their decks.

In developing a brand purpose, you must be able to connect with your customers with clear laser focus. This doesn’t mean you only want a few customers. You can still have mass and still be focused (think Apple). It does mean you know what qualities and ideals your customers hold near and dear to their hearts and you communicate to them that your brand stands for those as well. Even if it means potentially being hated by a segment of the population. In fact, if you don’t get strong emotion either way, then you’re playing it safe being in the middle of the road. And, by being middle of the road, you will become roadkill. Now, if your brand is hated by the very customers you want the most, then you are off track and must re-evaluate where the problem is and correct it.

The main point is your brand needs to take a strong, emotional stand that endears you to your most valued customers. This sometimes means having another group dislike you with equal emotion. If your brand can generate strong emotion, then you’re on the right track. By the way, in polling some of our key clients (the kind we want more of), they have been very positive toward the new campaign and thought it fit even better than the previous one. My colleague was never really the core audience we were after. I appreciate his insights and will take some of his details to heart, but the overall approach still resonates with our clients and the deep code specifically addresses some of the important things they want to say.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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