How Brands Thrive On Being The Opposite

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How Brands Thrive On Being The Opposite

It doesn’t take an election year to focus on the fact that you have to stand for something. In the U.S. nothing stiffens the resolve of a Democrat than a Republican telling them they are wrong. And vice versa. The hypothetical line is drawn and you must choose one side or the other.

But trolls and haters show up everywhere and appear in many forms — from the celebrated dust-ups between Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds to more conceptual notions like essential versus non-essential, environmentalists versus polluters, woke versus social injustice, agile versus waterfall.

As human beings, we enjoy rivals. The concepts of “pagans,” “nonbelievers,” and the archetypal Stranger appear to be elemental parts of our psyche. Our brains are complex creatures and perhaps we need the contrapuntal rhythms of oppositional thoughts.

Many of these antagonists are so ingrained, you only have to mention the one and your mind automatically leaps to its opposite.

Angel : Devil

Yankees : Red Sox

#BlackLivesMatter : Racists

Sports rivalries are modern examples of the mythic “other”.

Learn From The Other Side

In the era of social media, the existence of trolls and haters is axiomatic. If you are attracting attention, someone else is going to push back. It’s best to have some strategies handy.

“Don’t fear your haters, embrace them,” suggests social media strategist Martina Skangalova. “Every troll or hater gives you a helpful insight of how you or your product/service can be perceived. If you can reach out, be thankful and ask them for more feedback. If the comment is irrational and rather helps the troll to release stress, you can either a) joke around or b) simply not focus on it. Every comment is helping you to reach and help more people.”

There are other ways to play it.

As President Trump proves with every tweet, shared belief builds audiences. When Trump pokes at Twitter, his discharge of adolescent “Mean Girls” banter, Fake News and as some believe, hyperbolic lies are designed to stroke his audience and keep everyone else shaking their heads.

New Yorkers know that Trump learned how to stir up news-bites in the 1980s as he and real estate entrepreneur Leona Helmsley grappled each day to be mentioned on The New York Post’s Page 6. In those days, Trump relied on publicity agents. Today, his go-to is the Twitter “reply” button.

Our culture is rich in opposites and anyone who has spent a life outside of the cave has been marinated in the polarized epithets of Fox News, MSNBC, Twitter and the streaming forums.

The battles have produced some clever gambits.

  • The term “Proud boys,” originally a faction of gay men, recently was seized by ultranationalist-right radicals. In response, gay men hijacked the ultraright Proud Boys’ Twitter hashtag with messages of love and gay pride.
  • Vote for Breonna Taylor signs are posted on lawns, urging voters to vote for victims of police brutality.
  • Patagonia recently reproduced one of founder Yvon Chouinard’s favorite expressions and placed it on a clothing label. (Vote The A$$holes Out)
  • Spelling Bee, one of The New York Times’ popular word games let players unscramble the word “dictator” this week, subtly reminding people to vote.

Rivalries can backfire. In the 1980s, American consumers were subjected to a number of imaginary marketing wars. There were the so-called “cola wars” (Coke versus Pepsi), the burger wars (McDonald’s versus Burger King), and a street war that pitted domestic U.S. automakers against imports (General Motors and Ford versus Toyota, VW, Honda).

  • The battles ended when war-weary consumers started switching from burgers to tacos and pizza.
  • Colas gave up their turf as consumer tastes migrated to Red Bull, Frappuccinos and water in all its variants.
  • Toyota became the best-selling automaker in the world.

Define Your Opposite

Recognizing what you’re not creates new markets, new behaviors, new thinking.

Allison McGuire, who was once outed for developing an app that alerted young women about walking in sketchy areas within Washington D.C. and Manhattan, today flips the script. Using her experience to help others, McGuire considers ways to turn negativity into positivism. Haters are gonna hate, she acknowledges, but what if criticism could become confidence? Flip hater-speak into a rhetorical opportunity to speak your strength.

Here’s something interesting. If you are trapped in your own marketing maze, a way to find your way out is to ask what you are not and never want to become. Understanding where your company will never go, may lead in directions where you can go.

Final thing. Sometimes the nonbeliever can be you. Stakeholders at a tech company were asked at a marketing hoedown, Who didn’t believe in what they were doing?, and several coworkers raised their hands. They self-identified as nonbelievers — a couple of mergers and new product misfires had polluted their culture and they couldn’t rationalize why they came to work in the morning. (They finally got back on track by identifying their point zero, then regrouped from there.)

A little self-loathing can sometimes become a positive. Sometimes it helps to be your own troll.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding

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