The movie Garden State was listed by VideoGum as one of the worst movies of ALL time and a WHOLE bunch of people (on various forums and websites) seem to heartily agree. Yet Zach Braff recently got funded $3,105,473 on KickStarter (a million dollars more than he needed) for a new movie — mainly based on the popularity of his first…
Another one is “Lost In Translation” — it’s a love-it/hate-it movie too from the reviews I’ve read. In fact, most cult-classics are totally polarizing. Most of the biggest pop stars are totally polarizing (e.g. Lady Gaga). And what about cilantro (we call it coriander here)? There’s an active “I Hate Cilantro” community and yet most people I know LOVE the stuff. Never tried it? Now you’ll HAVE to (or at least feel deeply curious and compelled)…
…Weird. Polarizing. Powerful.
The Collins Dictionary defines it as: To cause people to adopt extreme opposing positions. It’s pretty straight forward right? But the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of applying it to your brand or marketing may be less obvious perhaps. Some may initially assume that the Polarize approach will be too ‘radical’ or too ‘risky’ for their brand. However, the type of polarization I’m suggesting here has no long-term risk at all — quite the opposite. It’s a method to vastly improve your brand’s chances of…
• being seen (and loved!) by the your ideal prospects
• creating conversation (i.e. natural, free, viral advertising)
• fast-tracking your goals (i.e. increased sales)
“The data has shown that brands with plenty of animosity can still succeed in a big way. Not every company can be loved like Amazon; … very polarizing brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks are far and away outperforming their less polarizing counterparts (perhaps the biggest worry is that people feel nothing when thinking about your brand)”
I don’t know about you, but my industry is totally saturated. There’s a lot of talent out there and we’re often competing for the same work. Being an excellent graphic designer, website developer or startup consultant is simply not enough. Many of us are competing in the online world too, which is far worse — there are thousands of genuine options for people to choose from, 24 hours a day, unrestricted by the boundaries of proximity, availability and convenience.
A Matter Of Evolution
Technology is evolving faster than we can hope to keep up with. Humanity is evolving at a slower pace, but it is evolving. We now hear people talking about the “Google Brain” — a shift towards mental efficiency and a change in the way we use our memory faculties. We’re becoming both more distracted and less cluttered at the same time. With less emphasis on ‘holding’ information (why fill up your brain when you can just Google what you need, when you need it?), there is more room for intuitive, emotional decision-making. There’s also a greater focus on the experience of life. There’s less satisfaction amongst the new generation of buyers to just accept a humdrum existence. It makes sense therefore that marketing too must evolve — a stronger emotional response will make a stronger brand.
Traditional marketing has been paramount to the foundation of success in a brand, business or product in the past. Differentiation, for example, is the difference between you being virtually invisible and you being noticed. But what happens when you’re differentiated, you’re being noticed, but no one seems to care anyway?
It can be a long road building a successful brand from the ground-up. The traditional road to anything can be long, unless you’ve got decent startup capital and a fantastic marketing plan… or you’re just really lucky. The Polarize approach was conceived from the question: “How can we fast-track and solidify our marketing efforts? How can we speed it up AND increase the likelihood of success AND reduce the cost at the same time?”
Life Hacking In The Startup World
I love the ‘life-hackers’. People like Tim Ferris (author of The 4-Hour Work Week) rock my world. They see life very differently and, as a result, they come up with solutions and methodologies to fast-track your goals in ways that make traditionalists throw up their hands in surrender.
That’s how I view the Polarize approach: a way to ‘hack’ your marketing efforts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to replace traditional marketing exactly — there’s over 100 years of experience, research and results that have proven traditional marketing is unavoidably valuable — I just think it’s a little slow and often too expensive for small players to do properly. I prefer approaches like the lean startup movement. I love the idea of levelling the playing field.
Maybe I’m just lazy, looking for a fast-track?
But the truth is, marketing MUST evolve to meet the changing needs of a our advancing global culture. Despite the burgeoning ‘big data’ revolution revealing more than ever before about consumer behaviour, I think that marketing as a movement is still desperately trying to keep up with it all. There seem to be very few players on the cutting edge. Regardless, the Polarize approach is part of that evolution — a sharper axe for a harder audience.
“…polarization in marketing, in essence, is when a person creates such a specific ‘style’ or ‘flavour’ that they draw in a loyal group of fans, but run the risk of turning others away.”
There are various ways to apply the Polarize approach
The least risky of which is probably with aspects of your brand that are NOT your product or direct service, like your style, your ‘stories’, your staff — but not the quality of your ‘stuff’. It is okay to use a belief or preference around your product but don’t use quality as a polarizing factor. A crappy product is a crappy product — who’s going to love that? That way, people can complain about your brand all they like (whilst others equally love your brand of course), but they can’t hurt the reputation of the thing that people actually pay for. You have to pay close attention to quality control factors with a more polarized brand or product, because people will naturally remember and talk more about it.
Take, for example, toilet paper…
We don’t talk about it much. It’s typically a commodity — a fairly non-polarized product. You get a not-so-perfect batch one week and it’s not a big deal. I don’t even pay close attention to what brand I use.
However, a truly polarizing brand WOULD get my attention enough to buy and try… But if the paper/experience was crap (no pun intended), then I’d probably make a mental note NOT to buy that brand, and I’d probably feel the need to talk about it.
Polarized brands and products are very memorable.
The experience of polarization is captivating:
the more polarized, the more unforgettable.
Russell Brand is certainly memorable: a famous, unique-looking actor, radio talk show host and standup comedian with an estimated net worth of $15 million. He was also married to pop megastar Katy Perry (admittedly that only lasted a year, but still worth mentioning in my house — my daughter loves her more than Barbie dolls).
And what do people say about him?
“I think Russell Brand is a fair-weather,
inconsequential puke mouth-piece”
…Admittedly the person who posted that called himself DemonCleaner — but it still illustrates that, as for profitable brands, being a little unpopular with some people is okay, right?
Erika Napoletano, author of the sensational book The Power Of Unpopular, puts it this way…
“If you stop and think for a moment, every successful brand in history – from from Apple to Android and Walmart to Nordstrom — is highly unpopular with…A WHOLE LOTTA PEOPLE! But that hasn’t hindered their success, has it? It’s time to rethink unpopular.”
Perhaps you’re thinking, “yeah, but I’m way too ethical to be an idiot for money.” Even for a net worth of 15 million? Yeah … um … me too I guess.