“If you don’t pi** off at least one person a day, you’re not trying hard enough.”
I first heard that line from Dan Kennedy, the thoroughbred marketer with a frowny mustache. Dan was the guy who taught me how to be a great marketer, how to get people riled up and anxious. His different books, which could fill an entire bookcase at Books-A-Million, each set out to do one and only one thing … to create a common enemy.
But Dan didn’t invent this idea himself. Dan didn’t just dream this notion up. Since time immemorial, cultures across the globe (and even some in galaxies far, far away …) have used the story of the underdog as a collective narrative. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, wrote a book describing this narrative, calling it a monomyth.
The monomyth can be described thus:
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."
(Taken from Joseph Campbell’s "Hero With a Thousand Faces," 1949)
Campbell’s seminal work, his "Hero With a Thousand Faces," simplified the monomyth into a clear, actionable statement. But this statement is more than just words; it’s the throughline that holds us as a human population together.
You’ve seen this play out in countless movies and books. You’ve seen the hosts at the Olympics point the spotlight on one athlete and hear their underdog story. When Frodo found the ring, he had to make a decision. Enemies started appearing out of nowhere. He had to defend himself and the ring. Simba in "The Lion King" faced a similar reality: He had to choose to lead his pride and fight his evil uncle.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a blockbuster movie that doesn't follow a similar storyline.
We’re not here to write movies. We’re here to grow our businesses. And to do that, we need to leverage the humanity of these monomyths, inserting their attention-grabbing elements into our marketing.
A client, former NFL safety for the Houston Oilers and good friend Bo Eason told me that . . .
When there’s conflict, there’s attention.
Such a simple quote, but so powerful. Conflict yields attention.
At the movie theater, you would never make a run for the bathroom in the middle of a fight scene, when conflict is at its crescendo. But would you go after the scene, when there is resolution? Likely. Because your attention wanes as the conflict resolves.
Are you using conflict, or, more directly, are you identifying and naming an enemy in your work? In your marketing? In your life?
Let’s look at a few examples of businesses that have stated an enemy.
- Bo Eason: His enemies are those who don’t try hard. Those who give up. Those who are not The Best.
- Donald Trump: His enemy, repeated over and over during the campaign, was the crooked politicians in Washington. Everything he said came back to this central tenant. Crooked Hillary, Drain the Swamp, Career Politicians and the rest of his taglines came directly from this central enemy.
- Tony Robbins: His enemy is giving up. It’s in not self-actualizing. If you go to his programs, watch his “I Am Not Your Guru” on Netflix, or even read his books, you’ll see that he demands you to self-actualize. To continue a lifetime of personal growth. Everything comes back to “you’re robbing yourself, your spouse, your kids . . . the world of your greatness. Grow! Evolve!”
I have a client in the financial advising niche, and his enemy is market disruption. Everything he does ties back to changing regulation from Washington, decreased fees for commoditized advisers and an increase in competition. It’s a clear message: Commoditized advisers have skinny kids.
Declaring an enemy in your business and your marketing rallies people together. There’s a common enemy that everyone wants to see defeated. The messaging is clear, and the togetherness brings a sense of mutual respect and confidence.
As a marketer, my enemy is the Tactic Man. I’ve seen far too many entrepreneurs hire a master of one specific tactic, only to realize the tactic wasn’t effective for their business. When people say, “I want to spend $1,000 a day on Facebook ads,” I get frustrated.
The goal isn’t the platform. The goal is the bigger picture.
When I talk, when I’m on podcasts, when I help my clients, I’m always helping them identify the right strategies and tactics. Then, and only then, are Tactic Men (and Women) the right hire.
This common enemy allows me to rally all those who have spent their quarterly budgets on a specific ineffective tactic. It rallies entrepreneurs together who finally want to figure out the right direction and to know when to pull in specific talent.
What’s your common enemy? Who are you fighting against?
If you feel like there’s a lack of attention in your business, declare an enemy. Identify a target you can beat, and crush it. Show your prospects and customers that you and your company alone can defeat this enemy. Keep your messaging clear, on point. When you lack an enemy, when you skip conflict and try to appease everyone, you don’t garner much attention.