When You’re Sick of Fitting In...
“People want companies and the world around them to align to their values, their goals, their needs, their interests. People want to find where they belong. They’re sick of fitting in.” Chris Brogan
We’re in a very different age from the one I grew up in. Back then, consumer brands exhibited personalities along parameters that were, generally speaking, non-controversial. It was important to offend no-one and “to stand out” was to do so along ‘conventional’ lines (sexy was cool but in a heterosexual way; models were never plus-size; family units started with a man and a woman, etc.).
Today, consumer brands tend to be less afraid, more vocal and more pronounced in their points of view. Not all of them, but enough to be noticeable. They will take a stand (explicit or otherwise) on issues their leaders perceive as important, accepting the resultant impact that has on their target market (which inevitably narrows).
They're doing this because, as Chris Brogan points out, consumers are sick of fitting in. Many consumers want to do business with companies whose values match theirs. They, in fact, seek out these brands and not only buy them, but evangelize them.
The implication for the brand is simple: Be somebody. Stand for something. And by extension, be clear about what you don’t stand for.
This certainly means ‘crossing the line’ on topics previously considered ‘not kosher for prime time’. it absolutely means you’ll turn away a material subset of people who have the means and interest to buy your product but don’t align with your values.
And it certainly means accepting that that is OK. That those people, to channel Seth Godin, are not your tribe.
And that’s hard for many to accept, especially those in their early stages. Because revenue leads to profitability leads to survival leads to prosperity. So it’s tempting to compromise, to walk the middle path.
The problem with the middling path, though is that you’re not someone or something. You’re just part of the crowd. One of many.
Or worse, you’ll be assigned a set of values that you can’t control or get ahead of.
It’s your choice.
Your consumers are sick of fitting in. Are you?