Dave Trott published a beast of ad-industry criticism in “Advertising Isn’t Switzerland.” He’s looking at the turnaround The New York Times pulled off by making Trump their stated enemy back in 2014. My big takeaway is the power, importance, and profitability of picking a good fight/sparring partner.
Making noise and gaining attention is the point of advertising.
Hold this point in the front of your brain while you read the rest of this (keep it right in between your eyes where you can’t see it, but you can still feel it).
Before the NYT focused on being anti-Trump, the lack of noise and attention were precisely what was driving them out of business. Ignoring the social consequences of a deliberate finger on the news’ scale, think about what it means.
When we want people to talk about our businesses, we want them on our side – not our competition’s.
If we frame our competition in a strong enough way, so our people know what we stand together against, we’ve woven a new sense of loyalty into our relationship. We’ve created an US and a THEM.
It’s especially powerful if we’re a small fish competing against a bigger fish. Since the big fish will specifically be avoiding much fuss, the challenge becomes making as much fuss as possible to pull people onto our side against a clear common enemy.
In a way, it worked as well for the NYT as it did for Trump.
No matter how you feel about what either side did, they executed the playbook with a Belichek level of precision. Lines were drawn, sides were chosen, and passionate fans threw their support behind their team.
Especially if you’re a little fish going after bigger fish or trying to turn a business around, give Trott’s article a read and really think about how to apply this concept.
Advertising is all about the fuss. If a clear sense of identity comes from a common enemy, you might just have a winning (or business saving) formula.