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Be brave or go home

Loveandhate_1

Seth Godin says that today, "being safe is risky, and being risky is safe." And if you're out there creating something on the edge, someone's going to hate it. Probably a lot of someones. One thing we noticed from our Amazon reviews was that we get mainly five-stars and one-stars, but not much in the middle. They either love it a lot or they hate it with a passion. Whenever I start to feel bad about a scathing review, I remind myself that Don Norman said, "If someone doesn't really hate your product, it's mediocre." And mediocre is where you SO do not want to go.

Ever since we started this crazy scheme (18 months ago with the release of the the first book in the series), we've been thinking that the extremeness of our reviews was a good thing, and now someone's confirmed it. A NYTimes article looks at a professor who analyzed Amazon book rankings for, among other things, a book's "controversiality index". From the article:

"But the most telling variable is the one star rating. Professor Gronas found that books high on what he called the "controversiality index" are given almost as many one-star as five-star ratings, creating a horseshoe-shaped curve. As it turns out, these books also tend to have high sales."

You gotta be brave out there, now more than ever. That's one of the reasons we're big Tim O'Reilly fans, because he's definitely brave. He was more than willing to risk taking a chance on us when the other publishers turned us down or said they'd publish Head First if we scaled back to only 10% of what we wanted to do. That was like telling us, "You can be only 10% brain-friendly". No thanks.

Making only incremental improvements won't work today, not with the gazillion competing products and services all fighting for attention and offering pretty much the same perceived benefits. Just keep being brave and most importantly--when you start to have doubts about how far out-there you should go, and you're imagining how the critics will burn you alive, just remember that the worst thing is being in the Zone of Mediocrity. That's what we should all be afraid of.

Creating passionate users is NOT about finding ways to make everyone like you. It's about finding ways to use your own passion to inspire passion in others, and anything with that much power is bound to piss off plenty of status-quo/who-moved-my-cheese people. Bring it on.

Posted by Kathy on January 25, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Great post and super blog, Kathy. Like The Roches once said, "keep on doin' what you do."

Posted by: Tom Guarriello | Jan 25, 2005 11:44:51 AM

Kathy, I just came across your blog and I absolutely love this post! It is sooo true and validating to hear others express what my business partner and I have been trying to drill into some of our clients' heads for years. You should make t-shirts out of the graphic, I'll buy a dozen! Looking forward to reading more from you and your colleagues.

Posted by: Gary Goldhammer | Jan 25, 2005 12:24:09 PM

Amen sister. Truer words were never spoke...errr written. Thanks for sharing...keeps us all on our toes.
Thanks!

Posted by: Ken Brand | Jan 26, 2005 11:11:16 AM

Being brave requires finding a brave publisher. O'Reilly seems to be alone in this regard. The rest would rather stick to their formulas. Of course past performance is no guarantee of future results...

James McGovern
http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/leadership

Posted by: James | Feb 28, 2005 5:09:02 AM

Love your books. Love your writing. Keep it coming...

Posted by: Kelley Harris | May 3, 2005 1:03:06 AM

Your warning on the zone of mediocrity is noted. But I want to prove it first. It sounds like a jiggery pockery... but never mind.

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Posted by: Mirar | Jan 23, 2007 10:13:05 AM

Hello,

I am actually a student in a french communication school in Paris and I am writing a book on the notion of being brave in communication, for my final work. I found your website who totally transmit this idea and I would like to know if it's possible to ask you some question on this subject.

1. How can you define the word Brave in marketing and communication?
2. Nowadays, why do we need to be brave? Do you think it's an obligation for brands?
3. Have you got examples of "brave brand" or "brave campaign" made by your agency? If yes, what are they?
4. What is your method to transform a "classic brand" into a "brave brand"?

I hope you will have the time to answer me.
Thanks a lot.

Jeremy Lopes

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