Some brands just won’t die—and that’s because it doesn’t matter how much we hate them. We aren’t their target audience.
And there’s seemingly no talking sense into the people who love them. Or is there? For every negative we can list—several bullet points' worth of reasons why we can't stand them—the lovers just stare back at us with that maniacal grin. Sometimes, they’ll battle us bullet point for bullet point. Others will simply say, “You wouldn’t understand” and just keep on smiling, beaming with affection for that brand we can’t stand.
So, hang on a minute before you build your brand with visions of universal popularity. Let’s take a look at brands with their fair share of lovers and haters—and see how that dichotomy hasn’t hindered their chances for success in the slightest.
What started as a single location discount store in Rogers, Arkansas, is today a $443 billion company with over 4,600 locations across the United States. Fans of the leader in “Every Day Low Prices” love … the low prices. From clothing to corn on the cob, Americans everywhere turn to Walmart to stock their shelves, closets, homes and garages on a budget. So what’s not to love about low prices?
The brand’s opponents run deep and don’t much care about Walmart’s low prices. They hate the culture (evidenced by the viral People Of Walmart photo blog), they hate the shopping experience and, as of late, they hate the way the discount Goliath does business. From reports of how Walmart is strangling the U.S. food system and shortchanging farmers (they’re reported to be a more powerful influence than Monstano in the U.S. food lobby) to how they treat their suppliers, Walmart has its share of opponents.
Hate if you will, but economies across the country are powered by Walmart’s presence.
What used to be the world’s ugliest computer is today the most cash-rich technology company in the world. In spite of recent stock dips, Apple posted record revenues during the fourth quarter of 2012 and continues to have an ardent following of fans ready to buy whichever device comes out next. There has to be something that makes Apple’s loyal devotees stand in line outside through all kinds of weather, just to be among the first to get their hands on the latest touchscreen wonder. They’ve done it all with a proprietary operating system, a failure to play nice with Google (the other “big kid” on the block), and price points far above that of comparable Android or Microsoft OS products.
But hate them, oh yes—people do. I’ve heard them called everything from “computers for hipsters” to arrogant with their pricing. Many in the software development community dislike the brand for its stringent controls for software and ironclad approvals process for App Store apps. But it doesn’t really matter why you might hate Apple—the company knows its customers (and knows them well) and continues to design its products and customer experience for them.
Hate what you will about this brazen, brash and unapologetic domain registration and hosting company. The truth is it has over 54 million domain names under management, more than 10.7 million customers and 2011 revenues over $894 million. It's a leader in edgy Superbowl advertising and stirring controversy, which brings the love-to-hate domain purveyor its share of fans and sends the others screaming about indecency and sexism.
Which is why people love to hate GoDaddy. It pays for prime advertising and designs ads to evoke a response—and achieves a response each year in spades. Turned off by the company's tendency to flaunt Indy car driver Danica Patrick as eye-candy and CEO Bob Parsons’ affinity for big game hunting, once-loyal GoDaddy customers have left in droves. After its initial support of the controversial SOPA initiative in 2012, customers took their domains and ran to friendlier registrars like Name.com.
What’s to love about Chick-fil-A? Maybe it’s the waffle fries. Perhaps it’s the tasty chicken breakfast sandwiches. It could be the endearing cow-powered “Eat Mor Chikn” billboard campaign. Whatever’s in the chicken and fries, this is one brand that knows its audience—and well. Even when the brand came out with a solid stance against gay marriage in 2012, it wasn’t afraid. It's a private brand steeped deeply in Christian beliefs and knew the people who mattered would respect its stance. And it paid off. The company’s sales were up 2.2 percent year over year, following its much loved-or-hated gay marriage beliefs.
Before the company’s openly anti-gay marriage stance, maybe the brand’s opponents just didn’t like drive-through chicken. Now, human rights advocates have banded together and abandoned the brand outright. Names like “Chick-fil-Hate” are often batted around, and that’s okay for the folks at the nationwide chicken stand. It’ll keep serving up chicken treats with a side of ultra-conservative beliefs.
Entrepreneurs in today’s tech world dream of being the next Mark Zuckerberg—an unassuming Harvard kid who went on to be the founder of the most popular social network in the world. As of June 2012, it was reported that the average user spent over 400 minutes per month on the site, which means someone must love this brand! And what’s not to love about the one place you can go to get updated on all your friends and family with just a few clicks of the mouse? Marketers love it as a centralized location to communicate with their brands' fans, and retailers love it for the ability to quickly broadcast deals, offers and sales.
Hating Facebook is easy, though. Mostly users hate Facebook because they think Facebook should treat them like customers. The hard fact is that users aren’t the customers—they’re the product. We get frustrated over privacy changes. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without something moving around or a new, senseless functionality we never asked for and don’t want. We’re all pretty over the “poking” and truly wish there were a “dislike” button. But we keep going back. Our friends are there, our businesses are there—and until there's a compelling alternative, we’ll continue to use a brand we hate if it keeps us in touch with brands and people we love (or hate less).
Which brands are you loving or hating these days? Tell us in the comments.
Photo: Getty Images