The importance of knowing your enemy

Ah yes, content – all that stuff we’re constantly consuming online: videos, emails, ads, posts, tweets, reels, blogs, newsletters, subject lines… the list goes on and on.

As a founder, you may instinctively shy away from content – you’re not a marketer! You’re not a creative! Isn’t this someone else’s problem?!

Alas, you also know that having better content can make a huge difference. Better copy means more clicks, more eyes, more sales. So what can you do right now to improve your content?

That’s easy: know your enemy.

What do we mean by that? Let’s break it down.

Knowing Your Enemy

Knowing your enemy means knowing what your product has to offer that other products don’t, and being unafraid to point out those differences.

In her video on this topic, Elizabeth Yin highlighted ThirdLove, the e-commerce bra company that launched in 2013.

Now, by the time ThirdLove launched, there was already a huge player in the bra market: Victoria’s Secret.

The makers of ThirdLove believed their product was superior to Victoria’s Secret. But just  saying their bras were better wasn’t going to persuade anyone. Especially since VS had such a strong grip on the industry.

But they didn’t only believe their product was better. They positioned their whole brand as the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret.

And in doing so, they purposefully made Victoria’s Secret their enemy.

Victoria’s Secret is all about being sexy? Well ThirdLove is all about being comfortable. Victoria’s Secret thinks there’s no space for plus-size models? Well ThirdLove celebrates every body type.

This mindset shaped every piece of content they created, from their ad copy: “Are you ready to graduate from Victoria’s Secret?”, to the New York Times, where they took out a full-page ad and published an open letter to the enemy.

In the open letter to Victoria’s Secret, ThirdLove called out the CMO’s misogynistic comments and the brand’s lack of inclusivity.

And readers loved it. Women wrote in to thank ThirdLove for their message, and many became ThirdLove customers as a result.

At the time ThirdLove started honing in on their enemy, they were a scrappy little company going up against an entrenched leader. Today they are a leading online retailer with national recognition and tens of millions in revenue every year.

So, why is defining an enemy so effective?

A couple of reasons come to mind:

  • It focuses your writing. Instead of trying out a lot of possible narratives, you can hone in on one message and stick to it. That means consistency across all channels and content.
  • It attracts attention. Saying something a little controversial is a great way to catch someone’s eye – like those ThirdLove ads did. Once you have their attention you have a chance to convert them into your customer.
  • It differentiates your brand. Want to know a little secret about Hustle Fund’s enemy? It’s us. By which we mean, the enemy is Venture Capitalists. We don’t want to be like all the other VC Funds out there. Knowing that helps us write approachable, useful content for founders and investors.

There has never been a better time to have an enemy. Make your content stand out by knowing who yours is.

Carolyn Abram is a freelance writer with a passion for technology. She also writes fiction and teaches writing classes in her home of Seattle, Washington. You can learn more about her on her website or on LinkedIn.