"I hate these shoes for the way they look and what they stand for– complete disregard for class, decorum and style in the name of personal comfort."
That's the kind of responses Jesse Kornbluth of HeadButler.com got when he made the mistake of featuring "the butt-ugly plastic shoes known as Crocs"....

So, what are you to do when your products elicit that kind of response? Celebrate!
That's exactly what the folks at Crocs, Inc., are doing. They've seen Crocs go from selling 1,500 pairs of shoes and a revenue of $24,000 in 2002 to last year's sales of 6 million pairs with total revenues (including shoes, accessories, and clothing) hitting $108.6 million. In May, the financial gurus at Crocs projected 2006 sales to reach over $200 million.
This is a narrowcast, networked marketplace where many competitors compete flooding the world with way too many messages. You know that.
Old school mass-market thinking has to be adjusted and, in many cases, flat out abandoned. You know that.
You must, as Hugh so aptly puts it, "choose your slice carefully". You know that too!
But how?
Embrace the hate to find your love. This is tough - it means risking disapproval. Many businesses would rather remain in the mediocre middle - where customers have no strong feelings about them, pro or con. The result is a camouflaged brand that no one sees or remembers. Example: Banks and jewelry stores .... especially in shopping malls!
One person's object of desire can be another person's object of distain. I am a huge Dan Pink fan. I know he's right when he says, "Even the most mundane, utilitarian objects in our lives have been turned into objects of desire." Example: One-third of the Whirlpool focus group rejected the design of the wildly successful Duet washer/dryer combination.
People unite around ugly as much as beauty. Want to build a community around your brand? Then let people unite and defend you. Example: "Ugly" is part of the social appeal Crocs. Jesse at HeadButler says, "When two Croc-wearing strangers meet, they tend to feel they're old friends. These Crocs - they're not only long-wearing and comfy, they're the MySpace of shoes."
Ugly can be temporary, while people adjust to "your kind of beauty". I ask seminar participants what they think of the Scion xB. Nearly everyone says "it's ugly". Then some brave soul whispers, "I think they're cute. At first I thought they were ugly but they kind of grew on me." Initial reactions and lasting impressions are different things. The designers of the Scion xB dared to go for a "different kind" of beauty - one that takes time to be appreciated. Toyota asked: "Why be conventionally beautiful when you can be beautifully interesting?"
Build a brand worth being loved, desired, and even hated!
By the way, I still think Crocs are ugly.
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Mike Wagner

As founder and president of White Rabbit Group, Mike Wagner has focused his energies on creating a model of branding every business leader can grasp and apply to their organization: Brand Ownership.

Mike’s understanding of creative and competitive business cultures was formed at Franklin Covey and Saturn where he witnessed how brand critical standards resulted in exceptionally successful marketing and sales processes.

In the early days of Internet marketing, Mike was instrumental in leading a web development company into Inc. Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies. Helping clients make sense of e-business when others could not, his insight as an Internet business strategist won over clients that included Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, AOL Time Warner publishing, and more.

Mike speaks, trains, and coaches clients across the nation. His messages and workshops help business leaders re-imagine their brands and creatively practice enterprise-wide brand ownership. He is the author of the professional business blog, Own Your Brand.