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Pick an Enemy

For your business to achieve success you have to develop brand loyalty. To support your efforts, choose an enemy for your business. This will create a common cause for your business’ customers to rally against.

Learn more about how you can pick an enemy for your business in this blog post.


What Do We Mean By Picking An Enemy?

Picking an enemy does not always mean you are targeting another business such as a direct competitor or a business offering similar products. An enemy could be a social label or a barrier to success like lack of time.

By creating this enemy you are allowing your target audience to belong to a community. Consumers enjoy feeling like they belong to a group and research has shown that being labelled can increase the interaction with a brand or the uptake of an action.

A Stanford research project studied the effect of labelling voters politically active. A higher proportion of those who were labelled as being politically active voted in the next US election. Other research has shown individuals actively seek to belong to social groups and when they do, they feel a deep connection. This then creates an unconscious desire to conform to the norms of the community.

However, if you asked your consumers about being labelled, you might get a different response. Research about labelling has demonstrated that consumers don’t consciously like the practice.


The Biggest Example Of Labelling And Picking An Enemy

Apple has developed one of the biggest loyal followings of any brand. When new products are released their community will instinctively queue for hours to get a hold of the new product, even if very little has changed from the previous release.

The phenomenon has often been joked about as being a cult. However, this may not be far from the truth. Studies in neuroscience have proven that the area of brain which lights up when religion is mentioned is also lit up when Apple’s customers think of the brand’s products.

The success at Apple has resulted because they picked an enemy – the PC. Their adverts in the 1980s and 1990s were all about differentiating the Apple Mac from the Desktop computer. The Apple Mac users were portrayed as young and ‘cool’. Desktop PC operators on the other hand were shown to be lifeless drones unable to do anything else but create spreadsheets on their computers.

This instantly spoke to their target audience of the next computing generation and resulted in huge sales and the cult following that came afterwards.


Further Studies Into Social Cohesion

The Apple brand is by no means the only case study which can demonstrate how brand loyalty can be gained in this manner. Further research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board and published in the Harvard Business Review has elaborated on the creation of brand loyalty.

According to their study, one of the biggest myths which businesses believe is that they need to constantly engage their audience to create customer loyalty. When they asked customers, 77% of them stated that they did not seek to build a relationship with companies. Out of the 23% who did, few stated the level of engagement had an effect on their purchasing decision.

The biggest contributor to brand loyalty was shared values, with 66% of those surveyed giving this as their main reason.

This is where picking an enemy can give your marketing real benefit. It is like the business’ brand takes on the persona of an individual who has a certain set of likes, dislikes and interests. If consumers find that their own interests align with that of the business, they are going to feel a connection and therefore become loyal.


Picking Your Enemy

The Apple case is one of the few examples where the brand has chosen to make an enemy against another company. You don’t have to do this for your business. Instead you could choose an action, belief, behaviour or philosophy which can unite you with your target audience.

For this you have to know your audience and understand what they are really looking for when it comes to choosing a product in your market. Are they looking for a product which will save them time or give them better quality than they already experience?

When you create marketing materials which portray that philosophy you can grab the attention of your audience. They will first acknowledge frustration of the situation and agree with your stance. This will create interest in what you have to say and draw the audience to your website. From there you can use your shared beliefs and your valuable content to direct them down the sales funnel to become paying customers.

For example, if you run a business that sells easy to prepare, healthy food; you could align yourself against the struggles of cooking quality food in a rush. You could portray a family coming in from work and school and getting a ready meal out of the freezer or ordering in. This is probably a common occurrence for numerous families, yet many parents don’t like the regularity of the situation.

Then you can introduce your idea and show how your food is just as easy to create and is healthier. Instantly you have created an enemy: ready meals and take outs while also creating a shared belief amongst your target audience: quality food provided by the parents.



Picking an enemy is not necessarily about choosing a business to be in conflict with. Instead it can be about choosing a behaviour, belief or philosophy which you know your audience will equally dislike and using that to attract customers into joining your community. An aligned community with a shared goal become loyal consumers with little engagement required.

This allows your business to rely on a steady income with limited acquisition costs and from there you can grow your business.


Action Steps:

  • Select a belief or philosophy which you know your target audience are opposed to.
  • Incorporate that into your marketing campaigns to draw your target audience to your website.
  • Continue to centre your efforts around that one belief as your audience is led down the sales path.

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