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Big, Advertising Specialties, Dallas, TX

Using Reverse Camouflage To Brand

by Susan Morgan on December 15, 2008

In other words… boldly say what you’re not. 

In a piece on the topic that appears online in FutureNow the idea of reverse camouflage is applied to business branding. According to the article, people define ideas by the boundaries… without the edges an idea or term remains ambiguous.

This is why going after a huge market… trying to be all things to all people… won’t work. You blend in with every other business. You’re just another fill-in-the-blank here. 

If you want to stand out… you need to sharply define the edges between you and the other businesses like yours out there. The better you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off a number of customers. But don’t you want to powerfully capture some of your market instead of being overlooked by all of it?

Here’s a fantastic example of the approach from an actual ad. The doctor (a neurosurgeon) in question used a strong, differentiating headline that spoke precisely to what he WASN’T. Very compelling. He then went on to explain why his lack of warm, fuzzy bedside manner was actually a benefit to his patients… and backed this up with a list of impressive credentials, extreme commitment to surgical excellence and his patients’ successful outcomes. Pretty powerful, huh?

The FutureNow piece offers three suggestions to reverse camouflage your branding efforts…

  1. Get yourself an enemy or position that presents a reasonable alternative. Something that isn’t a straw dog or routine objection, but rather a quirk or real motivator behind your position. In the doctor’s case, he used his lack of warmth and personality to explain his choice of specialty and why he was so well suited to the work.
  2. Present a tightly focused perspective to the customers you most want to reach; speak directly to their needs, desires, frustrations. This leaves your core audience feeling an instant connection… and excludes others who don’t share these experiences. But both will recognize you. Tim Miles offers another good example of this technique on his website.
  3. Be honest and admit your costs and/or downside, backed by your rock solid credentials. In these days of ad-speak, solid credibility acts as a form of reverse camouflage. It’s not enough to be seen… to say it… you need to be believed too.

Reverse camouflage is a bold, daring branding approach to be sure, but by taking a stand about what you’re not, you tell customers what you are in a very powerful, memorable way . Yes, you will turn some people off… you won’t be everything to everybody – instead you’ll be just the right business for the right customer.

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Susan Morgan
Creative, passionate and detailed, Susan brings 25-plus years professional writing experience to a variety of projects — get-noticed direct mail pieces, full line print catalogs, eye-catching color brochures and totally original. search engine friendly company blogs, web pages and online articles.

A lifelong love of storytelling has also produced a full-length novel (Out of the Ordinary published by booklocker in 2007). Susan continues to indulge her passion for fiction with a growing number of short stories (one an award winner in 2004, another in 2008) and finalizing a second novel.

In her spare time Susan enjoys gardening, studying astrology and tarot, being with family and friends and keeping up with politics and current events.

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