Polarize

It is profitable to polarize. But how do you do that?

 Someone cannot stand your for-profit business. Or at least a part of it. 

At, least ideally someone can’t. Non-controversial business models are for government agencies and nonprofits; not business brands.

And that’s scarily counterintuitive, to embrace disapproval. But as always, let’s do what scares us.

So who can’t stand you? And if the answer is no one, then why not?

Is it just for big brands to embrace controversy? Protip: No. Nothing meaningful in business is just for big brands but not for you.

I know someone who said of Seth Godin, “I can’t tolerate that new age bastard, all he does is recycle common sense!!”. That’s as verbatim as memory permits.

Then there’s me, convinced of the opposite. “I LOVE Seth Godin!”. He offers a way to find ethical and intellectual meaning in marketing.

He helped me realize: the marketing itself is the product. An idea which revolts some people. Fine with me.

Several people unsubscribed to this list when I wrote about my support for Black Lives Matter three times in one week. Also fine with me.

Personal branding expert Peter Montoya once said: “The most polarizing brands attract the most wealth.”

Everybody hates a fanboy (Apple, Tesla) but brands leverage that fanaticism into profits.

Think about any major religion. And their charismatic and controversial figures – Jesus, St. Francis of Assissi, Lao Tzu.

Think of any major political party or movement. And think of political demagogues like Trump and Bolsanaro.

What do they create: fanatics.

Also: violence, strife, attention, unpaid-for press, strong feelings, and actions taken.

Think of polarizing athletes like Kaepernick and Charles Barkley. And polarizing media hosts like Stern.

And the list goes on. We’re following the money now.

None of these individuals are business role models but we can learn something from them. By the way, sometimes there’s a cynical calculation to invite controversy on purpose, as is true of Donald Trump’s police state tactics in Portland, Oregon.

Ideally, though, the polarity you create comes from a deeply-considered belief about how your business should be done.

I can’t tell you what beliefs you should cultivate about business. I can tell you that if they don’t apply to both your business and personal life, they probably aren’t true.

I can also tell you that if you think you don’t have any beliefs, you’re mistaken. Simply, think back to the last time something pissed you off. 

In that moment lies the seed of your polarizing point-of-view. And that can change the way you conduct your business.

Best,
Rowan