It’s hard not to love a company that isn’t afraid to push boundaries.
We like people who stand up for what they believe in, who flirt with controversy and who never, ever panic and retreat at the first sign of public push-back. Do you respect these guys? Remember Verizon’s hasty retreat? Gap and their logo fiasco?
And brands are like people. We’re bored of people and brands that are monochromatic, that only harp on that one thing. You’ve been in that party before and you can’t get away from that person fast enough. We find ourselves drawn to those complex, interesting, funny, “lovable rogues,” as Geoff Ross, the former CEO and founder of 42Below vodka, related to me.
Vibram and their Five Fingers shoes – a bit edgy to begin with, given their five “fingers” for your toes – is equally comfortable pushing its customers beyond the bland. When your shoes have toes in them, frankly, you’re accustomed to not pleasing everyone, at least at first glance.
Accepting risks and pushing people just a bit beyond their initial expectations is a core piece of this interesting brand’s mind-set.
Bob Parsons, the CEO and founder of Go Daddy, told me that he’d rather people hate his ads, because when you push them out of their comfort zone you push them to react. And when they realize who and what you are, inevitably – in his case – they become customers. Even many in the morally indignant church groups who annually threaten boycotts eventually end up as GoDaddy customers, he related to me.
These brands show us examples of provocative products that force us to rethink our preconceptions and experience things for ourselves. They require first-person to understand. And trial doesn’t happen when your brand is boring.
There will always be people who will sit in silent judgment of what you do, archly relating that they would have done things a bit differently. Ignore them.
Edgy is a tattoo.
Edgy is a DNA-level decision that comes from the top, as well as the sides and the length and breadth of your brand. It isn’t a cool idea cooked up by the dude in marketing. Because you won’t be able to back up and get safe again when the chairman’s wife says she hates the ad or you get the twentieth angry email or you hear of the first threatened boycott by that group that says they hate your stuff.
So decide who you are and who you’re willing to let go. Deciding who you’re not is one of the most important decisions you’re going to make as the steward of your brand.
Edgy is under your skin. It doesn’t come off. Some people won’t like it. But others, the ones who burn with the same passion that you do and laugh at the same jokes you do – your insiders, your army – will wear burn your logo into their flesh and wear it proudly forever.
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Awesome post, and timely as well.
Love the Vibram ad.
Also quite interesting Bob Parsons observation that religiously indignant folks often end up as customers.
Ryan: thanks for stopping by – Parsons told me a great story about having his team sort through a stack of letters from a chuch group letter writing campaign a year later and matching names to new domain purchases.
Edgy forces you to react – this isn’t a strategy for everyone, and frankly is only a strategy for those who have the intestinal fortitude to push beyond the bland – and the results are polarizing. But for those who end up on your side, they’re going to be willing to fight for you. Thanks!