The Power of Unpopular

"Popular is what we're leaving behind because, to be quite honest, it's not a tool you even need in your toolbox."

- The Power of Unpopular, page xiii

Why do so many business owners run their businesses trying to please everyone when it’s a full-on guarantee that you’re going to be pissing off plenty of people in the course of doing what your business needs to do? Blogger and digital strategist, Erika Napoletano makes the case in The Power of Unpopular that too many business owners waste too much time trying to be popular that they lose a vital sense of what they are about. “Doing good business”, being self-aware enough to ‘fly your freak flag’ means there’s no reason to fear not being popular as long as you’re serving your customers and the people who make up your market.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Being Popular Sucks

"If you build a business in order to be popular, you're going to fail - and fail the same way every time."
- The Power of Unpopular, page 8

Author Napoletano presents the idea of re-thinking of the word ‘popular’ in business by digging into five key concepts that are the engine in ‘the power of unpopular’:

  • Personality
  • Approachability
  • Sharability
  • Scalability
  • Profitability

Personality is being authentic and putting a human face on every aspect of your product and how you do business. There are four parts of brand personality. ‘The Who’ (making everything you do human), ‘Growing a Pair of Balls’ (have a strong, courageous opinion), ‘Emotional Aspects of Brand Personality’ (how to acknowledge what’s important), and ‘Practical Aspects of Brand Personality’ (the visual representation of your brand). Approachability means that your messaging and interactions with your customers and prospects transmits: “Hey! We understand you. We’re here and we hear you! Come on inside, and we’ll take care of you.” Sharability is creating a ‘brand advocate army’ that empowers your audience to share your message through your marketing activities and having a website that “gets over itself and embrace(s) that 80 percent of your messaging should be about everything except your brand…only 20 percent of what you put into the business should be about your company.” Scalability discusses being able to rachet up your business to respond to growing demand. Finally, profitability covers understanding the value that you bring to your market and having the foundations of being profitable at every stage of development.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Being Popular Just Isn't That Important. Got It?!

"We spend so much of our lives worrying about who likes us and what people think of us that we miss out on the most beautiful things along the way...and remember how fortunate we are to get live our dreams."
- The Power of Unpopular, page 191

The foundation of the book’s “unpopular is good” premise provides some of the most powerful points of having a business centered on its purpose. We start off on our entrepreneurial journeys reflexively, unthinkingly looking to reach as many people as possible and scale in order to make a fast grab at market share. In fact, being popular is the last place you want to be for the market that you serve. The core truth is that markets are transformed and moved by the implementation of leader companies’ “secret sauce”. Understanding your company’s secret sauce is vital for success. “Finding that something particular that attracts one group and repels another to get to the point where you develop solutions that are different and better than the ones currently available in your market.”

“The audience you think you serve and the audience who actually wants what you have can be very different creatures.” Napoletano drills the point home by quoting the late virtual reality researcher, Randy Pausch: “The size of the audience doesn’t matter. What’s important is that your audience is listening.”

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Build For Those Who Will Love You – No One Else Matters

"The people who will never love your brand are the greatest gift you could ever receive as a businessperson."
- The Power of Unpopular, page 31

The intro quote above is a paraphrase of the subtitle of the book. For me, thinking through the meaning of fully serving an audience and being passionately focused on serving their needs provided a powerful “a-ha”! Getting clear on the target audience that your business serves and kicking huge ass for them is the starting point. “Figure out what you want and hang out with the people willing to push on you to do more of that.” Understanding ‘the power of unpopular’ is fully accepting that your best friends are your customers and prospective customers. Making them fiercely loyal and loud advocates is going to bring profits… and meaning to your business operations and activities.


“It all begins with giving failure a big, fat hug.” Stop focusing on pleasing the people who are “never going to like you, your product, your service” and then “learn about the ones who already do (and just don’t know it).” For Napoletano’s clients, she counsels that to build a successful business, one must follow the five concepts covered above, pummel and push all your energies and efforts “building a business for that audience instead of spinning your wheels on the myth of universal popularity.” Bottom Line: being ‘unpopular’ inside your market can be a key strategic advantage with not only distinguishing your brand from your competitors but in transforming your market into something that truly matters to the people your efforts serve.

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Bruce Brodeen

ABOUT Bruce Brodeen

Founder of Not Lame Recordings (1994-2010), a record label and music distribution company that specialized in 'power pop'. Founder of Not Lame Media, LLC...
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