This week we're reading Erika Napoletano's 'The Power of Unpopular': Why being popular isn't the be-all and end-all

By Matt Boffey, founder

December 2, 2015 | 5 min read

Every Wednesday, London Strategy Unit's Matt Boffey reads one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity so you don't have to. This week's read is The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano, 2012.

This week's book is The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napoletano

Why have we chosen this book?

Because successful brands aren’t loved by everyone that stumbles across their path. In fact, brands that try to be best friends with everyone can end up selling to no one. The Power of Unpopular is all about building audiences that actively enjoy interacting with your brand - and that means becoming a brand that some people will love to loathe.

What’s the original thought or argument?

That the path to unpopularity is made up of five brand decisions. They are, in order:

  • Personality: Decide what type of human your brand would be, and what type of other humans it would be friends with.
  • Approachability: Lay down a welcome mat and invite your audiences to converse with you.
  • Shareability: Give your audiences a reason to shout from the rooftops about your brand.
  • Scalability: Build a solid frame that your business will fill as it grows - and hire a team of people that believe in your brand in order to achieve that growth.
  • Profitability: Know the value that you bring to your audience and the marketplace and don’t undersell yourself.

If you want to look smart, just read

Chapters One and Two - identifying your brand’s audience and deciding on its personality. As well as deciding who will hate your brand, Napolentano emphasises the importance of clarifying reasons why your brand will be hated.

Airbnb is a great example of a divisive brand. To its sceptics, the idea of sharing your home with a stranger is at the very least a bit creepy, and at worst downright dangerous. Champions of Airbnb have the opposite mindset - it’s either a brand you ‘get’ or one you don’t.

You might want to skip

The chapter on ‘scalability’. It’s pretty basic business advice that doesn’t relate much to the book’s main argument. If this chapter is news to you then you'll probably want to put this book down and grab a copy of Business for Dummies.

Why trust this author?

After 17 years working for other people, Napoletano took the jump and started building her acerbic prose and frank style into an unpopular brand of her own. As well as writing for for multiple entrepreneurial magazines, she can be found sharing her branding expertise at TEDx events.

Once you’ve read this you don’t need to read

Al and Laura Ries’ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. Napoletano’s straight-talking style is much more engaging than a list of branding ‘laws’. Who said learning couldn’t be fun?

Why should this stay on your bookshelf?

Because people don’t like interacting with robots. Your brand is bigger than any single product or service you produce or campaign that you run, and it’s an opportunity for you to show a human face to the world. Deciding what kind of face you want to show might be the most important decision your company ever makes.

What’s the one thing you should do differently after reading this book?

Forget minimum viable product and start building your brand’s minimum viable personality. Distill your brand right down to its essence by answering these three questions:

  1. How can your brand change a customer’s life?
  2. What does your brand stand for?
  3. Who and what does your brand hate?

Best quote in the whole book?

“Being unpopular puts us all in a hugely advantageous position in every facet of life. Unpopular brands strive to serve, love their audiences, and are continuously committed to making them as much a part of their business as their audience makes their brand a part of their lives.”

Matt Boffey is the founder of London Strategy Unit, which you can follow on Twitter @LSUsocial


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