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Posted by on Sep 21, 2009 in Branding | 0 comments

This is not for you – The power of exclusivity

I was always the last choice in sports. Athletically underwhelming is what you might call it. There are some people that were not born with an advantageous physical disposition and I was one of them. When I would be picked last for the team, what everyone was trying to say is “this is not for you.” My inability to excel in any sport (I tried swimming, soccer, you name it) ended in viola lessons. Point in case—there were significant barriers to entry.

The same is true for brands. Creating barriers to entry keeps the customers you want in, and those who don’t matter, out. If you’re walls are too short, intruders are going to dilute your brand and soon your community will be reduced to rubble.

Here are a few barriers to entry:

Language Barriers – Think about having an in depth conversation with your doctor or lawyer. They’ll probably dumb down everything and put it into layman’s terms. If you were to enter their world outside the patient room, you’d might as well be in Russia. The professional languages of medicine, law and business keep those that are unlearned, out.

Price – Think Hermes, Tiffany & Co., Porsche and other luxury brands. Do you think they care about people that cannot afford their products? That’s why they their media buys are where only the affluent frequent or are interested in. Yacht magazines are more likely to have a Porsche advertisement than your fisherman’s weekly. Luxury brands don’t want to waste their time or money catering to people that do not have sizable wealth. You won’t see deep discounts or buy one get one because if you cannot afford the products / services to begin with they don’t care about you.

Consider country clubs. Memberships can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Do you think the affluent want their country club letting your average Joe buy a membership at a discounted rate? Country club members buy that barrier–that wall–at a high price.

Effort – Seth Godin’s Dip concept speaks to barriers of certain professions. Doctors and lawyers have scaled the high walls that surround their profession. The determination that fuels the countless hours of hard work is how to survive the Dip. If obtaining your doctorate was easy, then it wouldn’t be such an exclusive professional community.

Building walls is important when developing a tight-knit brand community. Diluting your message by catering to others outside your target audience makes the entire community toxic and eventually no one will want to live there. If Porsche started offering their vehicles for the same price as a Toyota, initially their sales might go through the roof, but what happens to the primary Porsche demographic? No longer is there the price barrier to keep less affluent people out of the Porsche community and it’s ruined. To maintain the integrity of your brand community, make sure you have strong walls to keep those that don’t matter, out.

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