Awesome brands do this. Somewhat ironically.

Jeffrey Bonkiewicz
5 min readSep 28, 2019

Great brands divide us.

Great brands divide us. This is a good thing. Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

It may be ironic, but great brands both unite and split people into groups: Us vs. Them. Another irony: it is smart to create this dynamic because it is so powerful for people. We like having an adversary. We like being in the us camp. We like having a them to fight back against. All great brands have this. Think Apple vs. Google. Think Apple vs. Microsoft. Think Ford vs. Chevy. Think Coke vs. Pepsi. Think Disney vs. Six Flags. Think all great college rivalries. All great brands polarize people and put them into camps. The other great thing about this is people self-select where they choose to belong. We choose our college allegiance. We choose the car we drive. We choose the neighborhood we live in. We choose the laptop we create on. We choose where we go on Holiday. Nobody makes us do any of these things. They are our choice. This is a good thing because when they are our choice, we hold tighter to — and have greater allegiance for — them as brands. We chose them. Things we choose we have ownership in. As the greatest leadership maxim of all time states: people support what they create. By choosing, this gives us a hand in creating, and it feels good. These feel-good feelings then align with our choice of brand. Thus, we feel good about our brand, our alma matter, our laptop, our mobile unit, our car, our vacation home, our jeans, our Frye boots, Marriott hotels, Hilton hotels, Gucci, Tesla, Ford F-150s, etc. Like we’ve won. Like we are a part of a winning team. We are if we think we are. And we’ve got the goods to prove it, to show off, to recruit others, to feel good, to solve a problem, to belong. It is the last point that is salient: to belong. Great brands gift people identity. They gift people a winning team. They create allegiance in us. They create camaraderie within us. They unite us.

Think about your tribe. Your who.

Take opportunity to really think about how you can create this in your tribe. Think messaging. Think gear. Think your mantra. Write a manifesto about what you stand for and what you stand against. By doing this, you automatically polarize people which, as stated earlier, is a good thing. You want to find those who are strongly for you and repel those who are against you or will otherwise never buy from you. You’re attracting your people. Then, behave in ways that align with what you stand for and speak of what you stand against. Be congruent. You create a stronger tribe this way, injecting belief into your brand, reinforcing its walls, further giving people something to believe in. They will love you for this as they become even more ardent fans of your brand.

Marketing is change.

What will you teach them?

As Seth Godin says, “Marketing is change.” You are seeking to make things better by making better things. You seek to improve something for a particular group of people. You’re telling a better story. You market because you don’t like the status quo, the way things are. You want to change that in the best way possible, for these people. Say, for people who stand for personal development. What can you teach them? What will you teach them? Who is this for?

As Godin reminds us, we need to ask, Who is it for? Because we don’t want a product looking for a market. We want a hot market looking for a product. We need to align ourselves with the market, getting to understand it, to empathize with it, to learn from it. We shouldn’t fall in love with our product. We should fall in love with the market it is intended for. We need to understand their hopes, their dreams, their desires, their goals, where they want to go, their frustrations with the status quo. What change do they seek? What’s lacking in their lives? The better we understand their emotional makeup, the better we’ll be at marketing to them, using their words, their language, improving their culture. And we are all about improving their culture. We seek to make things better. We are marketers.

Traditional marketers are used to hitting people over the head with their barrage of messages. We’re seeking to be heard, to get through, to get the word out about our product. And traditionally, we sought to get that message heard by as many people as possible. We sought volume. Only our message and our products are not for everyone. They never were. Not really. They were only intended for these people here. Ironically, the more targeted the cohort of people, the better off we are. We didn’t have to barrage people with messages. What we had to do was turn the tables and understand the people we are marketing to better. We need to employ empathy. For how can you correctly communicate to them if you don’t first take the time to know them?

We used to be obsessed with market demographics: age; height; geography; weight; job; etc. Now, with precision messaging, we are far more interested in psychographics: the psychological make-up of our market. Which one do you think allows marketers to be better at their jobs? Which one allows marketers to be better empathizers? Which one allows us to make better things? It is the psychographics of our market that gives us the right data. This is how we really get to know our market’s hopes, dreams, fears, wins, life goals, challenges, and frustrations. It is these data points that give us the language we need to not only understand them, but to craft messaging that resonates with them. If you listen closely — which most sales pros & marketers won’t do — they will tell you everything you need to sell them. All you must do is actively listen and take notes.

Better? Be in the market you wish to sell to. Talk with them frequently. Go where they go. Buy the products they buy. Hang around them. Get involved with them. Seek to understand them. Become one of them. This will give you all the data you need to craft precision copy and story.

Today’s marketing is the reverse of its history. Creating the product and then shouting about it in as many channels you can afford doesn’t work any more. Many people won’t stand for interruption of their preferred content. They really won’t stand for, nor pay attention to, products and messaging that are obviously not for them. It is wasted effort and marketing dollars.

So, instead of creating the thing and then hitting everybody over the head with it while we get the word out, we need to be more precise by first asking Who is it for? And then asking, what is the positive change we seek to make for this group? How do we make this group of people even better? How do we improve their lives? We are not seeking only to sell our stuff. We seek to make things better for these people.

Why are we here? We are here to make change for the better.

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Jeffrey Bonkiewicz

I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.