Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sex with the lights on

The big companies (and perhaps not unrelated - the companies that are in the most financial trouble) have always built stuff that was made to reach the most amount of people. General Motors, Blockbuster, Circuit City, AT&T, pick a clothing company - all these companies, and most of their competitors, have all focused on pleasing - at most- the widest variety of people with the fewest products possible.

Now, we hear a lot about the Long Tail, Tribes, the Herd, and the need for new marketing and new companies to narrow their focus and do better than please people. All consumers will tell you there happy or "feel good" about the interaction. That's less of a compliment and more of an auto-response. Plus, we've set the bar so low on "happy" customers that it only means they don't hate us. Consumers need and want reasons to be absolutely passionate about the things that make up their lives.

The problem: If you are going to take your company/product past pleasing and into absolutely passionate consumer interactions you will piss a lot of people off.

Passionate = polarizing. True passion is almost blind to the opposing view.

The benefit: Passion is also an emotion that continuously drives desire. Rather than make an ad that drives a little bit desire, make a product that drives passion and desire will follow.

UPDATE: Feb 16, 2009. Turns out the Anti-Gym is a not-so-great example. Lawsuits and unpaid taxes shut it down. Lesson: every brand needs more than a reputation - it needs to have competent people behind it and needs to work for its consumer. Sound business is always a great place to start. So, I apologize for the terrible example, but it was polarizing regardless. If you're looking for another example of a more narrowed approach by brands look at: The Container Store (niche marketing), Umpqua Bank (not your grey suit bankers), Toone Guitars (get off the bandwagon), and even Toyota's choice to make the Prius (not so big news now, but considering who it was launched by and what state the auto industry is is big news).

Now for the not so great example I gave of the now defunct Anti-Gym...

A great example of love it or leave it positioning is summed up well by Anti-Gym. This Denver based fitness centre understands the words "polarizing" and "passionate". It speaks to a well defined group of people. Because Anti-Gym knows who it is talking to, it can clearly speak to those people. It doesn't worry about everyone else - just the people who will be passionate about this fitness brand.

Ant-Gym is against the gym/spa culture of fun weight loss and evening leisure that currently pollute the fitness centre market. For example: Why do people work out? Is it to run marathons? Sometimes. Is it for their highly laborous lives? Rarely. Is it to look better and be attractive? Almost always. So Anti-Gyms answer: "Have sex with the lights on".

Or how about this...most people that joined their local gym in January have long returned to their evenings watching reality TV. Anti-Brand has one thing to say and it clearly narrows who will accept their message: "No chubbies allowed! A 'chubby' is not necessarily someone with a spare tire or thunder thighs, it’s an unmotivated, lazy slob who wants to blame everybody else but themselves for their shortcomings."

So Anti-Gym is a great example of a narrow focus and leveraging passion. If you end up browsing the site, their mass marketing ads are a terrible example of how to communicate the brand promise. They also push the boundaries on communication and message to the point of ignorance. But that probably won't stop this brands growth. (update - it has. This brand died after lawsuits and tax trouble).