When Apple launched its “Think Different” campaign in the ’90s, it was to drive a wedge between computer enthusiasts. “I’m a Mac, you’re a PC” was designed to make people pick a side. Apple’s enemy is the boring computer that only geeks use.
Fighting against something is emotionally more powerful than fighting for a cause. Supporting a cause is a wish without a deadline. But an unpredictable enemy? That’s an imminent threat that someone needs to deal with, right now.
Harley Davidson said that their bikes were about freedom and adventure. This message was a declaration of war on Japanese bike makers and their customers, who saw motorcycles as being about speed and power.
The search engine DuckDuckGo has multiple layers of enemies, starting with every other search provider that’s tracking people. Google is their enemy and so is Microsoft’s Bing, and so is every advertiser and ad network preying on user data.
Do some people still prefer Google’s customized search results? Of course, they do. A good antagonist needs to polarize and cause debate. When you’re building a brand, it needs to evoke strong opinions; otherwise, it won’t have customers who care.
The enemy technique works exactly because the world is complex. People from all corners of the globe can form groups, based on only a few of their specific preferences.
Picking sides can often feel like choosing between right and wrong, but in reality, most of the divisions are arbitrary. To break the spell (to keep calm and carry on being responsible) it’s good to remind ourselves of what Niels Bohr wrote: “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”