Success On Whose Terms?

September 20th, 2012 | Shakirah Dawud | 20 Comments

Sculpture of acrobats lifting balancing each other.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.”

I agree.

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.

Photo credit: Clyde Robinson, courtesy Flickr, CC 2.0.

Shakirah DawudShakirah 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.

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Shakirah Dawud

Shakirah Dawud

Writer & Editor at Deliberate Ink
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.
Shakirah Dawud
Shakirah Dawud
Shakirah Dawud

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"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?

18 comments
shonali
shonali

@wittlake Thanks so much for the props to @ShakirahDawud #WUL post!

shonali
shonali

@jamiecrager @geoffliving @thejackb @howiegoldfarb Thank you for sharing @shakirahdawud #WUL post!

kyleplacy
kyleplacy

@geoffliving thanks for the RT!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Love this post @ShakirahDawud  and yes that @geoffliving is a really swell dude!

 

Humans are a funny group. We are so diverse. so many would sell out in a second for mass acceptrance even if it means a short lifespan of fame and fortune. Or they seek it. Then how many have to stay hip, elitist, cool etc. They would rather we poor than famous. Even if they had the choice.

 

A great case study on this is music. When a band signs a contract (or used to) they lost all creative freedom often in return for being pushed to the top. I can name band after band that had a hit song and then died because they had to recreate an album like that one song only to find people are past that and this the band dies out. But some took albums and albums and did it on their own therms and became huge keeping things on their terms.

 

I guess do you want to be a rocket or a balloon floating to the top?

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

I have had similar discussions with friends and family. For example, my son and a friend want to open a donut store that doesn't sell chocolate donuts.

 

They both hate chocolate so to them it makes sense to open a shop that caters to their needs and what they assume is millions of others.

 

That may or may not be true. So we have talked about whether it makes sense to be different just because they don't like something or because you are filling a need.

KOKEdit
KOKEdit

@ShakirahDawud Good to see you back here. I was just thinking last night that you'd been quiet for a while.

geoffliving
geoffliving

 @HowieG  @ShakirahDawud That's nice of you to say.  I wouldn't say I'm a swell,d ude, just one who exercises a lot more restraint now ;)   Thanks so much for the shout out and I'm glad the post caused this kind of thought and evolution in discussion. You added to it, and evolved it!

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

@KOKEdit Hi, Kathy! (waves) Blushing: a role model of mine thinking of me! Been thinking of you too, working thru edits. Happy to see fall?

KOKEdit
KOKEdit

@ShakirahDawud Oh, I'm thrilled that it's fall! There's that lovely back-to-school, start-anew feeling in the air. :-)

ShakirahDawud
ShakirahDawud

@KOKEdit Yes--and for some reason this year it's triggered the urge to buy s of sweater dresses like crazy for me and the little one. Weird.

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