Get real…don’t piss people off!

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

About a month ago I read the most ridiculous article on Fast Company that took inspiration from this Bill Cosby quote. Cosby had difficulty defining success, so the author decided to have a go. And I guess this means that I am going to have a go too. In the original Fast Company article, the opposite of pleasing others was pissing them off. The logical conclusion was therefore:

Success = Pissing people off

Come on…really?

I just don’t buy into the poorly formed logic in this article, and many of the comments that followed. The article tried to promote a new and more evolved way of looking at brand strategy. To be fair, there was some interesting content in the article. Having a clear strategy and brand position is important.

My difficulty here is the poorly founded assumptions behind the article. Even the examples that are provided in the article are nonsense. Somehow the writer sees that it is acceptable for brands to take positions that alienate markets and create controversy, simplistically justifying this by saying that not everyone will like everything.

Brands like Nestlé, Nike and in a more indirect way Vegas have engaged with practices over the years which have been ethically questionable. While these companies may not have deliberately set out to piss of their respective markets, they certainly did achieve just that. Pissing people off is not good strategy as the article suggests, but actually very poor strategy.

While the article does not condone unethical practice, it should be noted that there may be very good reasons why the market rejects a brand. Brands don’t need to please everybody, but companies should look for Read more