with guest Re Perez #MakingBank S4E41

In the year 2020, it’s easier to find haters than it ever has been before, so if your brand doesn’t have at least a few of them… you’re probably doing something wrong. Polarization is one of the key ingredients to good branding. It proves that you’re creating a strong emotional reaction in people, and on the flip side of all those haters will be people who are your staunchest defenders. Therefore, for many brands, polarization is a great strategy that is not only desirable; it should be actively pursued. In a competitive marketplace, you need to stand out, and consistently delivering a strong message that elicits strong emotional reactions is a great way to do so. The haters are simply a necessary byproduct that demonstrates the effectiveness of your strategy. 

Re Perez’s book, ‘Your Brand Should Be Gay (Even if You’re Not)’, is a perfect example of polarizing strategy. Its bright pink cover immediately grabs everyone’s attention, and it makes a strong statement that is going to catch a lot of people off guard. What does he mean? Why should a brand be gay? And how??? 

This cover is going to pull people in, and it will attract a lot of people who want to see a more accepting world for marginalized people. Also, as a result, there are most definitely going to be people who reject the very notion without further investigation, and thus you have your haters. 

The point is, branding like this works to build an audience. By saying what others won’t, particularly in a controversial manner, you are going to make a name for yourself and find many allies in the process. 

So how can you go about doing this? Pay attention to the following key areas. 

1. Know Yourself 

The first rule of branding is to know who you are. Branding only really works when it’s done authentically; if you try to fake it, people are going to sniff you out immediately. Before focusing on creating a polarizing message, you need to figure out who you are, and what part of yourself you want to incorporate into your branding. Once you begin to have a clear vision, you can start creating messaging around that vision. 

Your identity comes from many different places. It’s a combination of traits that come together to make you who you are. What makes you unique? What problem are you trying to solve? 

In Re’s case, he felt during much of his childhood that he was different, and he found it hard to fit in, but, eventually, he started to love his differences, and once he did, he realized that he could actually use them to his advantage. 

What personality traits or characteristics make you unique? Just like in Re’s case, it sometimes helps to peer into sides of ourselves that have caused us pain or discomfort in the past. Areas that many people may even be ashamed to share. There is more to gain from opening up about and owning vulnerabilities, because others will be less likely to share them, and feel more connected to you for having done so. 

If you do some digging, you’ll certainly find authentic parts of yourself that you can share. If you have the courage to do so, there is likely a big reward waiting for you on the other side. 

2. Know Your Audience 

Know who you’re broadcasting to. This includes both who they are and who they’re not. Re’s message probably would not have been very well received if it were part of a political campaign in Louisiana, but as a message to branding professionals in big cities across the globe, it was perfect. 

When Nike endorsed Colin Kaepernick, that was an obviously polarizing move, but it was a very well calculated one. They knew that, although they were going to be many people who hated them for it, their target audience overall would be very receptive. Because they knew their demographics, they were able to make a bold move that wound up paying dividends they will continue receiving for years. 

3. Take Strong Stances 

Don’t be afraid to make fun of or throw shade at certain topics or people on social media if they represent an ideology that you are strictly opposed to. There’s nothing better than trolling a Fox News anchor on Twitter if they start saying they don’t believe in dinosaurs or think the economy is more important than people. The right joke at the right time, aimed at the right person, can get a lot of attention and help build a faithful following. It’s also bound to get you lots of interaction from both sides, which means more attention coming your way. 

4. Don’t Try to Please – or Piss Off – Everyone 

The final key to building a polarizing brand is to know your limits. Find your lane, and stay in it. Once you’ve built a brand identity, stick to it, or you run the risk of alienating some of your followers. 

Imagine if PETA started to weigh in on the abortion debate. They would just wind up looking silly and would probably lose the respect of many people who support the work they do protecting animals. 

Find your niche, make sure it’s authentically you, and keep your messaging focused there. The stronger you can build your identity within that realm, the better, but trying to step outside of that can wind up doing more harm than good. 

Branding is about solving emotional problems for your audience, about helping them find their own identity through you opening up about yours. If done well, a polarizing branding campaign can bring millions of people together and build a strong company in the process. By focusing on who you authentically are and standing up for what you believe in, you can bring millions of people together. In doing so, you will not just be building a career; you will be making the world a better place. 

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