Do you have the courage to say what you’re not?
Most peo­ple don’t want to draw that sharp line of dis­tinc­tion, and it’s why their mar­ket­ing efforts blend into the clutter.
Dis­cernible edges and sil­hou­ettes allow us to visu­ally “grip” an object and sep­a­rate fig­ure from ground.  Elim­i­nate those edges and you’ll effec­tively cam­ou­flage yourself.
In the pic­ture above, notice how the legs present a solid sil­hou­ette and are eas­ily iden­ti­fied, while the man’s upper body cam­ou­flage breaks up his sil­hou­ette and blurs his edges into the back­ground of trees and snow.  As a result, it’s much harder to make out his his torso and arms.
Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and sil­hou­ettes.  We define by giv­ing para­me­ters, men­tally grasp­ing a con­cept by its bound­aries.  With­out the “edges” of con­trast­ing ref­er­ence points, a con­cept or term remains ambigu­ous at best.
That’s why grab­bing after an “infi­nite” mar­ket and seek­ing to be all things to all peo­ple ends up cam­ou­flag­ing one’s brand and mes­sag­ing; with­out con­trast it all just blurs into the background.
Want to stand out?  Sharply define the edges between you and your competitors.
The bet­ter you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off some cus­tomers.  But wouldn’t you rather pow­er­fully per­suade some of your mar­ket than be over­looked by all of it?
Just fol­low the exam­ple of this doctor:
I found this ad in my local news­pa­per and was imme­di­ately struck by the bold headline:
“You don’t want me to be your fam­ily doctor.”
Pretty ballsy head­line for a doc­tor, huh?  Wouldn’t you feel com­pelled to read more about this doc­tor with the courage to so brazenly declare what he wasn’t?
Hav­ing gained the reader’s atten­tion, the body copy fur­ther explains: “Neu­ro­surgery is one of the few med­ical spe­cial­ties for which I am well-suited.  I am not warm and fuzzy.  I could never be suc­cess­ful as a pedi­a­tri­cian or in a fam­ily prac­tice – no one would come back a sec­ond time.  But I am very good at what I do.”
Dr. Good­man then sub­stan­ti­ates his claimed exper­tise with a list of very impres­sive pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions and accom­plish­ments, rounded off with some exam­ples of his extreme com­mit­ment to sur­gi­cal excel­lence and his patients’ well-being.
While his pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions are truly out­stand­ing, most read­ers would never have read them with­out Dr. Goodman’s use of reverse cam­ou­flage in his head­line.  Say­ing what he wasn’t allowed him to stand out amidst the clutter.
So here’s 3 sure-fire ways to reverse-camouflage your messaging.
1.    Get your­self an enemy and/or reject a rea­son­able alter­na­tive position
Noth­ing fires the blood quite so much as declar­ing what (or who) you stand against.  But you get no points for tear­ing down straw men; reject­ing a rea­son­able alter­na­tive posi­tion puts teeth into your message.
2.    Present a tightly focused perspective
Once you’ve nar­rowed the group of cus­tomers that you’re most inter­ested in attract­ing, focus your mes­sag­ing to speak most directly to their felt needs, desires, and frus­tra­tions.  Peo­ple who don’t share those expe­ri­ences will feel excluded, but your core audi­ence will feel an instant con­nec­tion.  Both will instantly rec­og­nize you.  Tim Miles offers a bril­liant exam­ple of this on his “About Us” page.
3.    Explain what costs you’re will­ing to bare and admit the down­side to your offer/product.
This one is more about cred­i­bil­ity than def­i­n­i­tion, but amidst a back­ground of ad-speak, solid cred­i­bil­ity acts as its own form of reverse cam­ou­flage.  Plus, you don’t just want to be seen, right?  You want to be believed as well.
Finally, if all else fails, you can always use your new-found knowl­edge of cam­ou­flage to escape week­end chores (just ditch the boots in favor of camo socks)

epic-win-photos-camo-win1Do you have the courage to say what you’re not?

Most busi­ness own­ers don’t want to draw that sharp line of dis­tinc­tion, and it’s why their mar­ket­ing efforts blend into the clutter.

Dis­cernible edges and sil­hou­ettes allow us to visu­ally iden­tify an object, sep­a­rat­ing its fig­ure from the back­ground “noise.” Elim­i­nate those dis­cernible edges and break up the sil­hou­ette, and you’ll effec­tively cam­ou­flage your­self.

In the top-left pic­ture, you’ll notice how the person’s legs, back­pack, and hat all present a solid sil­hou­ette, with clearly defined edges. They stand out from the back­ground and are eas­ily iden­ti­fied. But the man’s upper body, clothed by the cam­ou­flage pat­tern jacket, blends smoothly into the land­scape. The pat­tern breaks up his sil­hou­ette and blurs his edges into the back­ground of moun­tain­side, snow, and brush. As a result, your eyes end up visu­ally iden­ti­fy­ing the man by his pack­back and hat first, and then squint in to find where his shoul­der, body, and arms “should” be.

This works the same way for adver­tis­ing. Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and sil­hou­ettes.  We define by giv­ing para­me­ters, men­tally grasp­ing a con­cept by its bound­aries. With­out the “edges” of con­trast­ing ref­er­ence points, a con­cept or term remains ambigu­ous at best. To know what a donut is, you have to know the dif­fer­ence between a donut and a dan­ish — to know what isn’t a donut.

This is why grab­bing after an “infi­nite” mar­ket and seek­ing to be all things to all peo­ple ends up cam­ou­flag­ing one’s brand and mes­sag­ing; with­out con­trast it all just blurs into the background.

And that’s a good thing because it makes it easy to stand out — if you’ve got the guts. Want to stand out?  Sharply define the edges between you and your com­peti­tors. It’s that simple.

The bet­ter you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off some cus­tomers. But wouldn’t you rather pow­er­fully per­suade some of your mar­ket than be over­looked by all of it?

A Bold Exam­ple of Reverse Cam­ou­flage In Action

neurosurgeon1I found this ad in my local news­pa­per and was imme­di­ately struck by the bold headline:

“You don’t want me to be your fam­ily doc­tor.

Pretty ballsy head­line for a doc­tor, huh? Wouldn’t you feel com­pelled to read more about this doc­tor with the courage to so brazenly declare what he wasn’t?

Hav­ing gained the reader’s atten­tion, the body copy fur­ther explains: “Neu­ro­surgery is one of the few med­ical spe­cial­ties for which I am well-suited. I am not warm and fuzzy. I could never be suc­cess­ful as a pedi­a­tri­cian or in a fam­ily prac­tice — no one would come back a sec­ond time. But I am very good at what I do.”

Dr. Good­man then sub­stan­ti­ates his claimed exper­tise with a list of very impres­sive pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions and accom­plish­ments, rounded off with some exam­ples of his extreme com­mit­ment to sur­gi­cal excel­lence and his patients’ well-being.

While his pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions are truly out­stand­ing, most read­ers would never have read them with­out Dr. Goodman’s use of reverse cam­ou­flage in his head­line. Say­ing what he wasn’t allowed Dr. Good­man to stand out amidst the clut­ter.

3 sure-fire ways to reverse-camouflage your messaging:

1. Get your­self an enemy and/or reject a rea­son­able alter­na­tive position

Noth­ing fires the blood quite so much as declar­ing what — or bet­ter yet who — you stand against.  But you get no points for tear­ing down straw men; reject­ing a rea­son­able alter­na­tive posi­tion puts teeth into your message.

2. Present a tightly focused perspective

Once you’ve nar­rowed the group of cus­tomers that you’re most inter­ested in attract­ing, focus your mes­sag­ing to speak most directly to their deeply felt needs, desires, and frus­tra­tions.  Peo­ple who don’t share those expe­ri­ences will feel excluded, but your core audi­ence will feel an instant con­nec­tion.  Both will instantly rec­og­nize you.  Tim Miles offers a bril­liant exam­ple of this on his “About Us” page.

3. Explain what costs you’re will­ing to bare and admit the down­side to your offer/product.

What you’re will­ing to put up with in order to sat­isfy a pas­sion can be as much of a marker of iden­tity as the pas­sion itself. Stick shifts aren’t as pleas­ant to drive in thick traf­fic, but a lot of dri­ving purists wouldn’t have it any other way. Top end kitchen knives require extra care in terms of cut­ting sur­faces and using the right knife for the job, but those are points of pride for Food­ies and Chefs. So admit­ting these down­sides is not only the right and hon­est thing to do, it’s also the per­sua­sive thing to do. And for two rea­sons: 1) as just dis­cussed, it helps enthu­si­asts fur­ther iden­tify with your brand; 2) admit­ting the down­side boosts cred­i­bil­ity — and cred­i­bil­ity acts as its own form of reverse cam­ou­flage amidst a back­ground of hype and BS.

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Cam­ou­flage, I highly rec­om­mend this bril­liant piece in the New York Times.

Comments

  1. Tom on 03.11.2012

    A very well writ­ten post.

    I once tried to con­vey the same point in a blog arti­cle, but I couldn’t for­mu­late my thoughts any­where near as elo­quent and com­pre­hen­sive as you’ve done here, Jeff.

  2. 10 Advertising Tips from Joss Whedon | Jeff Sexton Writes on 03.25.2014

    […] a value that you stand for (or some­thing you stand against), […]

Leave a Reply




CommentLuv badge

WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing