Be as unpopular as Urban Decay
Have you ever tried to be unpopular?
It will be the best thing that ever happened to your brand.
🤓 The natural niche
It is impossible to build a brand that pleases everybody.
Even the strongest brands with mass appeal today were always originally built for, and had a strong reputation with, a very specific niche of people. This niche of people are ‘their people’.
Think Urban Decay, Crossfit, and Moleskine. These brands always have a point of view that resonates strongly with ‘their people’, often either serving a particular group who have never felt recognised or running counter to the majority view.
What mass appeal brands do now is not nearly as interesting as the growth stage that made them into household names.
These people provide the passionate core from which their advocacy drives the brands from niche to the mainstream. To build a brand, you must have a very specific group of people who align with your brand values, and for whom you build highly specific experiences that perfectly matches their needs.
It’s at this point that Duel decides whether it's the right time for brands to start investing in and scaling advocacy. Earlier on, the team should be out there hustling, talking to their customers 1:1 to create advocates and learning exactly how to meet their needs. I’ll be writing more on this in the future.
🏘️ Your counterculture community
Knowing what you stand for also means you know what you stand against. This unapologetic confidence is a magnet for those who look at the world in the same way the brand does and sets the foundation for a niche, countercultural community. This is the case with the most mainstream brands out there. For example:
- Urban Decay is a brand for “makeup junkies by makeup junkies.” Articles as far back as 2009 describe the brand as innovative, targeting a niche acknowledging their commitment to beauty with an edge.
- Apple may feel like a staple, but as it grew, it was the brand of the counterculture. It was built for under-served artists and creatives who hated the corporate nature of work, and the fact that Microsoft had a monopoly on it - the ubiquitous symbol of the monotonous, ‘cubicle’ office job.
- Nike was built by runners for the (at the time) nascent activity of jogging and raged against the monopoly on track shoes Adidas had (Phil Knight’s memoir "Shoe Dog" is a classic must-read for all Brand Builders).
If you have a valuable product or service, there's a good chance that it satisfies the needs of a certain group. If you can capture and emphasize how your offering aligns with this particular group in your vision and mission, you have the potential to help uncover and supercharge a community obsessed with your brand and what it stands for.
Think of your niche community as your brand's roots. They’re vital for your organic growth and integral to weathering economic storms. It's an uncommon yet handy illustration, and the analogy is useful for growing your own brand's branches and ensuring they are grounded in your true fans.
It may be tempting to dilute your values to be more palatable for a larger audience. Vague vision translates to shallow engagement. Diluting does exactly what it says on the tin: it gives your customers a watered-down experience, gives you watered-down results in the form of a watered-down core group of fans and watered-down advocacy from them.
That's why it's so important to find your niche. And once you’ve found it, trust it.