Most people don’t want to draw that sharp line of distinction, and it’s why their marketing efforts blend into the clutter.
Discernible edges and silhouettes allow us to visually “grip” an object and separate figure from ground. Eliminate those edges and you’ll effectively camouflage yourself.
In the picture above, notice how the legs present a solid silhouette and are easily identified, while the man’s upper body camouflage breaks up his silhouette and blurs his edges into the background of trees and snow. As a result, it’s much harder to make out his his torso and arms.
Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and silhouettes. We define by giving parameters, mentally grasping a concept by its boundaries. Without the “edges” of contrasting reference points, a concept or term remains ambiguous at best.
That’s why grabbing after an “infinite” market and seeking to be all things to all people ends up camouflaging one’s brand and messaging; without contrast it all just blurs into the background.
Want to stand out? Sharply define the edges between you and your competitors.
The better you do this, the more strongly you’ll turn-off some customers. But wouldn’t you rather powerfully persuade some of your market than be overlooked by all of it?
Just follow the example of this doctor:
“You don’t want me to be your family doctor.”
Pretty ballsy headline for a doctor, huh? Wouldn’t you feel compelled to read more about this doctor with the courage to so brazenly declare what he wasn’t?
Having gained the reader’s attention, the body copy further explains: “Neurosurgery is one of the few medical specialties for which I am well-suited. I am not warm and fuzzy. I could never be successful as a pediatrician or in a family practice – no one would come back a second time. But I am very good at what I do.”
Dr. Goodman then substantiates his claimed expertise with a list of very impressive professional qualifications and accomplishments, rounded off with some examples of his extreme commitment to surgical excellence and his patients’ well-being.
While his professional qualifications are truly outstanding, most readers would never have read them without Dr. Goodman’s use of reverse camouflage in his headline. Saying what he wasn’t allowed him to stand out amidst the clutter.
So here’s 3 sure-fire ways to reverse-camouflage your messaging.
1. Get yourself an enemy and/or reject a reasonable alternative position
Nothing fires the blood quite so much as declaring what (or who) you stand against. But you get no points for tearing down straw men; rejecting a reasonable alternative position puts teeth into your message.
2. Present a tightly focused perspective
Once you’ve narrowed the group of customers that you’re most interested in attracting, focus your messaging to speak most directly to their felt needs, desires, and frustrations. People who don’t share those experiences will feel excluded, but your core audience will feel an instant connection. Both will instantly recognize you. Tim Miles offers a brilliant example of this on his “About Us” page.
3. Explain what costs you’re willing to bare and admit the downside to your offer/product.
This one is more about credibility than definition, but amidst a background of ad-speak, solid credibility acts as its own form of reverse camouflage. Plus, you don’t just want to be seen, right? You want to be believed as well.
Finally, if all else fails, you can always use your new-found knowledge of camouflage to escape weekend chores (just ditch the boots in favor of camo socks)