Slate recently posted a column about how book authors who feel wounded when somebody tweets a bad book review that includes the author's twitter handle. Apparently such tweets make some authors feel miserable because they can't avoid tweets, like they avoid book reviews.

What these overly-sensitive authors don't understand is that from a branding perspective having some people hate your work is a Very Good Thing. The reason is simple. As Seth Godin told me once (I'm paraphrasing), people only love brands that other people hate. One comes with the other. They're inseparable.

Take Apple, for example, one of the world's best loved brands. Indeed, there was a time when the Apple brand enjoyed a level of fanaticism not seen outside of extremest religions. However, even in the Apple brand's glorious heyday there were plenty of consumers who absolutely loathed Apple.

One of colleagues--a very smart guy, BTW--vehemently disliked Apple. He found the company and its evangelists to be insufferably smug and condescending, especially considering that their devices were woefully overpriced. He hated Apple partly, though, because so many people loved it. The same is true today.

People either love Apple or hate Apple. While I don't think Apple actively tries to be annoying (although removing Copy Flow in Mojave borders on trolling long time users), some companies actively risk hatred to generate an opposite and equal reaction.

Nike's recent campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, for example, generated so much hatred among political conservatives they were burning their Nikes on YouTube. Well, Nike was crying all the way to the bank on that meme because that reaction from the MAGA crowd simply made Nike's core constituency love the brand all the more.

Personal brands work this way, too. The celebrities with the strongest brands are love 'em or hate 'em: Tony Robbins, Donald Trump, Cardi-B or Elon Musk, who arguably has the strongest personal brand in the today's business world. Indeed, when I recently suggested Musk might make a better Apple CEO than Tim Cook, I got two reactions: 1) "Great idea! I love Musk!" and 2) "Horrible idea. Musk sucks!"

And that's to his advantage. A brand that everyone "kinda likes" is barely on anybody's radar. The ultimate goal of all brand marketing is to create emotion, even if some of that emotion is negative.

Published on: Jan 31, 2019
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