When Greg Koch and Steve Wagner founded Stone Brewing, they could have ended up like thousands of start-up failures. They could have launched a me-too product and tried to compete head to head with the industry leaders.
Instead, they decided to stick it to the man.
Their beer was unapologetically different. It was bold and irreverent. The company named one of their first brews Arrogant Bastard Ale, which carried a challenging warning on the label: “This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it.”
The founders continuously mock the established guard and are extremely vocal about their perspective. So much so, they distribute T-shirts and stickers that read, “Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies.”
Sound like a self-defeating and dangerous approach when trying to win customers? There is no doubt that Koch and Wagner alienate many beer drinkers who do not appreciate being provoked. I’m sure there are some who are offended by the company’s approach. Complaints of being rude, disrespectful and cocky certainly have been lodged. Many people, in fact, hate the beer and the company. But those that love it… truly love it.
Stone Brewing’s loyal customers support the company with cult-like fervor. Their beer has a unique taste and represents a departure from the norm. For those who connect to the ideals of the company and its founders, the beer is the liquid equivalent of a Harley Davidson motorcycle or a Fender guitar. Iconic. Meaningful. Delicious. The passion evoked by this California-based brewer has propelled the company to $100 million in annual revenue. And they’ve never spent a penny on marketing.
In your business, you may be trying to be all things to all people. But a vanilla approach will only spread mediocrity. If you want customers to truly fall in love with you and your product or service, you must take a stand.
The willingness to alienate some will enable you to connect more deeply with others. What changes would you make in your business if your goal were to estrange 30% of your customers while delighting the other 70%? Or even ditching 70% while completely dazzling 30%? How could you offer something so unique and compelling that it simply couldn’t be ignored?
In these challenging times, taking an unconventional approach can make all the difference. So go ahead and balk tradition. Disregard industry practices. Forge new ground. Push into new areas that scare your competition. Launch your own version of Arrogant Bastard Ale in your chosen field or profession, and you may just become flush with success like the good folks at Stone Brewing.
I’ll drink to that.