Thoughts
June 11, 2021

Love and hate are closer than apathy and passion

“I got the feedback from the group, most people tend to think option A is ok, but everybody was split on option B — they either loved it or hated it.”

Everybody working on creative or entrepreneurial projects has at some point received an email like the above. Whether it’s from a group of clients, a board of directors, a focus group, a prize jury, or some other assembly entirely, it’s often seen as the sign of an impasse. The subtext is “well we’re stuck, what now?”

At first this seems like a problem. On one hand option A looks like the winner, because as the old saying goes, “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” But then again option B has the most fervent supporters.

Maybe a compromise can be struct, maybe if you just tweaked B a little bit here, shaved off a little bit there, and made it a little more like option A we can get the whole team to agree?

When you get this feedback, this isn’t a stalemate — it’s a clear signal that option B is the right direction.

It is almost always the right choice to pursue the route that inspires passionate responses, both on the positive and negative ends of the spectrum. This is because the distance between love and hate is light-years shorter than the gulf between apathy and passion.

Red Bull routinely scored miserably on taste tests, but has built a devoted following as one of the top beverage brands in the world. The Eiffel Tower was called “A half-built factory pipe, a carcass waiting to be fleshed out with freestone or brick, a funnel-shaped grill, a hole-riddled suppository” and is now the most visited monument on the planet. The love ’em or hate ’em Yankees have more fans (and more rings) than the “who cares” Diamondbacks or Blue Jays.

If there is one near-universal truth in contemporary society, it is that people are busy, their attention is thin, and their options are limitless. Which means that if you want them to buy your product, join your cause, or do anything else, you need to give them a reason to care quickly and convincingly. That is a lot harder with a forgettable, vanilla brand or product than one that shocks the senses.

Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Weisel famously said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

The default is indifference. Your job is make people care.

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, has a book coming out in 2023, and works with some cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

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