Geoff Livingston wrote this post for me, but I’ve been holding onto this title so long I’m not willing to let it go.
But I feel I’d better rehash a little of Geoff’s post, probably because he provided the au courant substance (excuse?) I’d been searching for to feel confident my thoughts to follow aren’t completely off-track.
He provides a graph of the diffusion of innovation, showing exactly the numbers necessary for a brand to go from special-interest to mass-market gotta-have trend.
I want to focus on the tension he describes that we feel in the very beginning of that cycle, between being accepted and being a “purple cow.”
First, let’s think about what it means to be a purple cow. Literally. Imagine that you’re in a field with brown cows, and you’ve painted yourselve a gorgeous violet.
They eventually make friends in the movies, weird characters like this, but in real life you can bet you’ll be alone in whatever end of the pasture you graze. Others aren’t sure how to deal with you–or whether they should. But you’re a cow–okay, a business–just like every other. How are you going to succeed?
Well, Geoff says,
“A classic mistake would be for a content creator or innovator to scorn the mass and groupthink, in spite of their flaws.”
Lifehacker.com appeals to fiercely independent people who are also on-trend and readily able to embrace the term hack as the shortest path from A to B. I happen to have a client whose personal brand is associated with hacking as well.
But because its delivery isn’t anchored in the safer life, he opted to create a new brand altogether to reach his market of people less familiar with the term hack in a positive light, but who nevertheless appreciate easy-to-use technology.
If being different were the goal of your brand, very few brands would make money. The goal of your brand is buy-in.
So start counting: how many people like purple? Enough on which to stake a sustainable business model? If there’s no obvious match-up, look for the “thread of discontent” that can draw out the kind of people you expect to serve.
Worldly success comes from other people. In other words, it can come on your terms–but usually, they’re terms others must be willing to accept.
Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web. You can also connect with her on Twitter.