It doesn’t take long for us to know if we like or dislike something. I imagine that this is closely linked to the “fight or flight” instinct hardwired into all of us. The problem is that people often don’t agree on what they like and dislike. Mass murderers such as Charles Manson, somehow become very desirable to a small group of women, while they remain figures of loathing to the rest of us. Entire households get divided during the elections, when one member says Labour while the others say National.
Even superb products don’t reach everyone. For example, regardless of how many iPads Apple sells, or how good the product is, there’s always someone who’s not interested and chooses a competing tablet. The problem with marketing is that we all want to believe that the product we're selling is the absolute best in the world when it most likely isn’t. If it was, everyone would have one, but not even Apple has created this perfect product.
No one, and no product or brand, ever gets unanimous approval - it just doesn't happen, not even for Jesus or Mohammed. The sooner we understand this the better. Moving away from the centre is becoming more important than ever before. In fact, clever marketers should be striving to find a way to move their brands to the juicy edges and in turn find ways to get the centre to move towards them. Lady Gaga did this very well, so did Marilyn Manson. Britney Spears tried but failed and ended up looking rather daft, proving that being edgy isn’t as easy as it seems. But what they all shared in common was one thing: bravery.
It takes a really remarkable person to commit an act of bravery, simply because by its very definition, brave is something that not everyone is prepared to be. Standing up to a bully, asking for a raise, immigrating to a new country, getting married, starting your own business, coming out, saying "no" when everyone else is saying "yes" - these are all hard to do, some more so than others. But once done, they’re over and we move on to the next challenge.
Being brave in marketing has become absolutely essential, because there’s just no real scope for anything else these days. Five years ago, alternative approaches to marketing were a novelty but now they’re all that we have left if we’re to have more of an impact than the competition. So how can the element of bravery become second nature to marketers? After all, many of you are in paid positions that look after your mortgages, childcare, credit cards, alimonies and a need to feed a family three times a day. Bravery isn’t as easy when there’s so much at stake – logic says that no one wants to lose everything they’ve worked so hard for by making a brave decision, which ends up being the wrong decision, that costs you a career.
Bravery needs to be seen as an “up moment” with more to gain than to lose because that is the very nature of bravery. I don’t classify myself as fearless, so you may well be sceptical as to what gives me the right to talk about bravery at length, but you don’t have to be brave to know what bravery is. I can’t see myself standing up to a tank in Tiananmen Square but I know that it’s been successfully done before and that fills me with hope that my inferior attempts at bravery can succeed. So in my next blog, I’ll take a closer look at how bravery and marketing can go hand in hand and what it takes to be a brave marketer.